Researchers from the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta are collaborating with their US counterparts to trace the presence of the genes of the prehistoric Denisovan and Homo floresiensis humans in modern-day residents of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).
Indonesian paleo-antropologist Professor T. Jacob and his Flores Man skull (left) next to a human skull
"It has never been thought before whether there is Denisovan and Homo floresiensis genes both in our genes and theirs [Flores residents]. We will carry out research into the issue," said Eijkman Institute deputy director, Herawati Sudoyo, in Jakarta on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara news agency.
She said Indonesia was home to a wide variety of ancient hominid humans. It was here that Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the ‘Hobbit’, the most recently discovered human species was located and its evolution remains a mystery.
"This is because we cannot yet prove through a DNA test whether [the diminutive] Homo floresiensis is a new species or whether they were short because of certain illnesses," said Herawati.
Although anthropologists could physically determine that the ancient humans found in Liang Bua, Flores, were different from other hominids, Herawati said the differences could be precisely determined and analyzed through a DNA test.
"We can determine it through a wider perspective using ‘Genome-wide scanning’. We can see it from the aspects of metabolism, nutrition, food, including genes related to their susceptibility to diseases," she said.
Herawati said her team would soon start activities to organize the field in Ruteng, Flores, together with researchers from the University of California, before they started the survey and decided which samples should be taken.
Meanwhile, Richard Edward Green, an assistant professor from the Biomolecular Engineering Department of the University of California, said researchers had found fossils of Denisovan ancient humans in the Althai Mountains, Siberia.
Parts of the DNA fragments of the Denisovan ancient humans can be found only in populations living east of the Wallace line, namely Australia, Flores, Maluku, Oceania, Papua and the Philippines.