PARIS : The fossilized remains of an early human cousin found in the mountains of Tibet proves  mankind adapted to live at high altitude far earlier than previously thought, scientists said on Wednesday.

A  jawbone dating from at least 160,000 years ago of Denisovan - a now extinct branch of humanity    - is the first of its kind discovered outside of southern Siberia, and experts believe it holds the key to understanding how some modern-day humans have evolved to tolerate low-oxygen conditions.

Contemporaries of the Neanderthals - and like them, possibly wiped out by anatomically modern man, Homo Sapiens - the Denisovans first came to light a decade ago.

Their existence was determined through a piece of finger bone and two molars unearthed at the  Denisova Cave in southern Siberia's Altai Mountains and dated to some 80,000 years ago.

But the new remains - discovered in passing by a local monk nearly thirty years ago - has led researchers to conclude that Denisovans were were far more numerous, and far older, than previously thought.

''To have beings, even if a little archaic, living at 3,300 metres [11,000 feet] on the Tibetan plateau  160,000 years ago...........

That's something that no one could have imagined until today,'' said Jean-Jacques Hubin, director of  the Max Planck Institutes's Department of Human Evolution. [AFP]


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