Denisovan Diet Revealed: New Findings from Tibetan Plateau Cave

Lanzhou, China – Recent findings from the Baishiya Karst Cave on the Tibetan Plateau shed light on the dietary habits of Denisovans, a group of ancient human relatives. These discoveries, made by an international team of researchers, provide insight into the lives of these mysterious hominins.

The Baishiya Karst Cave, situated at a high altitude on a cliff in northeastern Tibet, was initially discovered by Tibetan monks. One of the monks stumbled upon a lower jaw fragment, later identified as belonging to a Denisovan based on analysis of preserved proteins. This fragment, now known as the Xiahe mandible, remains the most significant Denisovan fossil found to date.

Excavations at the cave site yielded a significant number of animal bones, although none were initially recognized as belonging to Denisovans. However, subsequent sequencing of environmental DNA from the cave revealed a consistent Denisovan presence over a span of at least 100,000 years, suggesting their ability to survive at high altitudes even during glacial periods.

Researchers focused on analyzing fragmented animal bones from the cave using a technique called mass spectrometry, specifically zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS). This method allowed them to identify nearly 80 percent of the bone fragments tested by matching protein fragments to known collagen sequences.

The study’s results indicate that Denisovans had a varied diet, consuming whatever food sources were available to them. This new information adds to our understanding of these enigmatic ancient humans and their adaptation to different environments over time.

Overall, the findings from the Baishiya Karst Cave provide valuable insights into Denisovan behavior and survival strategies in challenging high-altitude environments. By utilizing innovative techniques like mass spectrometry, researchers continue to uncover important details about our distant relatives and their way of life.