Close Encounter: 5 Questions About the Atacama “Alien”

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It’s been all over the news lately; the tiny, odd skeleton that researchers have been examining in hopes of figuring out its origins. Discovered in South America’s Atacama Desert a decade ago, the undersized skeleton has raised many questions that, until now, had very few concrete answers. There were plenty of wild theories, but no one seemed to know what exactly it was, or where it came from.

Now, thanks to DNA testing and extensive examination by teams of researchers in the making of the documentary “œSirius,”some of those questions have finally been answered, though quite a bit of the mystery still requires some clearing up.

5 What Made It Look So Strange?

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In their extensive research, no one has been able to account for what may have caused all of the strange deformities in this skeleton, many of which spawned the initial theories that the remains were not of a creature from this planet. Despite their insistence of it’s human origins, researchers didn’t find any of the mutations commonly associated with primordial dwarfism or other forms of dwarfism, saying, “There is no known form of dwarfism that accounts for all of the anomalies seen in this specimen.”

4 How Closely Related Are We to This Thing?

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While the genome sequencing of the creature suggests it was definitely human, 9% of the genes didn’t match up with the reference human genome. To put this in perspective, the human genome is only 1% different from species like chimpanzees and bonobos, and they aren’t exactly walking around being mistaken for humans. Researchers claim the genome mismatches could be explained by skeleton degradation or insufficient data, but the fact stands that there are some relatively HUGE discrepancies between your DNA, and that found in our dearly departed little friend.

3 What’s with the Head?

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According to some of the world’s leading scientists, this skeleton was definitely human, but is it possible that this thing was also a real-life cartoon? Because let’s be honest, it’s skeletal remains looks an awful lot like Beavis from Beavis and Butthead. According to researchers, the strange, elongated shape of the head can actually be explained by a disorder called turricephaly, or high-head syndrome, a birth defect in which the top of the skull is cone-shaped. Though the jury is still out on whether it enjoyed critiquing old music videos while laughing incessantly.

2 How Long Did It Live?

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The skeleton was only six inches long, but according to DNA evidence, it lived to be roughly 6-8 years old. It’s a surprising fact that inherently begs the question; how the heck did a 6-inch tall person live that long? Normally, an animal of any species that is so severely undersized isn’t likely to survive very long, but somehow this mini-man made it past its fifth birthday? Could it walk? Could it talk? Did it get around by being carried in the handbag of a rich celebrity socialite? Who knows?

1 What Species Was It?

Despite all the hopes of interstellar fanatics out there, it turns out this little guy was not a real life E.T. According to researchers, it was not some alien that landed here decades ago and formed an against-all-odds friendship with a little boy through a mutual love of Reese’s Pieces, but was actually just a very small human; “I’ve only scratched the surface in the analysis. But there is nothing that jumps out so far as to scream ‘nonhuman,'”explained researcher Garry Nolan, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford School of Medicine.

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