Sign of a Mysterious Human Ancestor Has Been Found in Our Spit

by Luke Higgins

It’s not enough for some people on this planet to say they have their mother’s eyes – they can now claim to have their great, great, great… (a few thousand greats later) …great grandmother’s saliva.

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A variation on the gene for our spit’s mucus shows signs of having been passed down from a distant ancestor. Not only is this gene unique among modern humans, it looks nothing like the one possessed by our Neanderthal or Denisovan cousins, leaving us to ask; just who did they get it from?

MUC7 is a gene that makes the long strings of protein called mucin, which gives our spit its thick, sticky quality.

Not all MUC7 genes are alike, with a repeating region of code marking out variations that could be useful in tracing back different lineages in our modern human population.

That was the plan for a team of researchers from the University of Buffalo in the US, who analysed the mucin-7 gene from more than 2,500 individual genomes from modern humans to see what secrets these differences might hold.

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