No, the mysterious skeletal remains found more than a decade ago in a Chilean desert are not alien.The Atacama humanoid skeleton (“Ata”)—six inches long with an elongated cranium and accelerated bone age—is actually the remains of a newborn with multiple genetic mutations.Discovered 15 years ago in a ghost town in the Atacama Desert by Oscar Muñoz, the bony structure was later purchased by Spanish businessman Ramón Navia-Osorio, and ended up in a private collection in Barcelona.Featuring fewer-than-expected ribs and other skeletal deformities, Ata was believed by many to be an alien specimen, discarded in the South American sand.But analysis of its DNA revealed the being is actually of this world. In fact, Ata is a female of human origin, probably of Chilean descent, with signs of osteochondrodysplasia (also known as skeletal dysplasia).In 2013, Stanford University immunologist Garry Nolan proved that Ata was clearly human. But the question remained: What caused her odd skeletal structure?Nolan and his team sequenced the specimen’s DNA, revealing Ata to be anywhere between “mere decades” and 500 years old, as reported by Science magazine.Based on their analysis, the researchers uncovered some never-before-described mutations, but found that most occurred in genes previously implicated in bone disorders.Almost certainly a premature birth, Ata suffered a grab bag of mutations—and not the kind that earns you a place with the X-Men.“This specimen had the bad luck lottery,” Nolan told Science. “We all are born with multiple mutations, and that’s evolution, but sometimes the mutations all align badly.”Not everyone agrees, though.Geneticist Michael Briggs from Newcastle University claims it is “highly implausible” that this motley crew of deviations just happened to occur together.Briggs, who specializes in skeletal diseases, suggested instead that Ata’s oddities were caused by one or two variants. But without functional studies—for example in mouse models or tissue cultures—it’s hard to know which modifications were responsible.Draw your own conclusions from Nolan & Co.’s findings, published this week in the journal Genome Research. Stay on target CRISPR-Modified Babies Cursed With Short LifespanScientists Add Human Genes to Monkeys’ Brains in New Study Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.