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It's not an alien, but here's what that tiny, pointy-headed skeleton really is

A tiny, pointy-headed skeleton that fits in the palm of a hand isn't an alien, despite conspiracy theories that have circulated for years. The skeleton, with a dramatically elongated skull and an underdeveloped jaw and face, was uncovered in Chile's Atacama Desert in 2003, and mystified scientists when it was first found. Research published in 2013 offered some clues about the skeleton's bizarre appearance, but five additional years of genetic analysis have provided even more answers. Examination of the skeleton's entire genome revealed that it was Chilean and female, and that its misshapen skull and other deformities might be linked to a host of genetic mutations that affect bone development. Together, those mutations shaped an array of abnormalities that gave the remains an alien-like form. Though the skeleton is the size of a 22-week-old fetus, it was initially thought to be a 6- to 8-year-old child with severe deformities. Nearly a decade later, a highly detailed analysis — including X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and DNA sequencing — showed that it was a fetus (and that it was definitely human). It's hard to tell how old the skeleton is just by looking at it, but prior examinations found it to be about 40 years old, scientists explained in a new study. Despite the skeleton's minuscule size, previous analysis cast doubt on whether it was a fetus because its "advanced bone age" more closely resembled that of a young child, particularly in the structure of the skeleton's skull, with sutures that were already fused. But that feature was a byproduct of a genetic mutation — one of many that caused its numerous skeletal deformities. And, in fact, the premature fusing of skull plates in the fetus is what gave the skull its pointed shape, the researchers reported. The scientists extracted DNA from one of the skeleton's ribs — another anomaly that previously had fueled speculation about alien origins, as there were 10 pairs, rather than the 12 normally found in humans. However, alien hunters will likely be disappointed to hear that "the specimen is shown here to have a purely earthly origin," the study authors reported.

Read More: Fox News

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