Tags: tiny | alien | skeleton | desert

Tiny 'Alien' Skeleton Found in Desert Has DNA but Questions Remain

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 08:02 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Though a tiny skeleton found in Chile's Atacama Desert a decade ago was originally thought to be an alien but then proved to have earthly origins, question still linger about the 6-inch mummified remains.

When the skeleton, which has a squashed, alien-like head, was first found, there was speculation that the specimen was some sort of alien creature or the remains of a fetus. DNA and other tests later revealed that the skeleton was that of a human who died between the ages of 6 and 8, according to LiveScience.

"While the jury is out regarding the mutations that cause the deformity, and there is a real discrepancy in how we account for the apparent age of the bones, every nucleotide I've been able to look at is human," researcher Garry Nolan, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford School of Medicine, told LiveScience. "I've only scratched the surface in the analysis. But there is nothing that jumps out so far as to scream 'nonhuman.'"

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Nolan and his team have been studying the skeleton since fall 2012 in an attempt to explain the deformities, such as its size, the shape of its skull, and the fact that it only has 10 ribs (a normal, healthy human has 12).

"There is no known form of dwarfism that accounts for all of the anomalies seen in this specimen," Dr. Ralph Lachman, professor emeritus, UCLA School of Medicine, and clinical professor at Stanford University, wrote in a report to Nolan.

Researchers are also trying to find out exactly how long ago the specimen died and what genetic mutations are present in the DNA.

"It's an interesting medical mystery of an unfortunate human with a series of birth defects that currently the genetics of which are not obvious," Nolan told LiveScience.

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