Our Ancestors Bred with Neandertals, Denisovans, and "Mystery Humans"

Genetic archaeology is taking us into knowledge we never thought we'd find before gene-mapping came about. After all, finding fossils is a rare hit-or-miss event. Harvard evolutionary geneticist David Reich and his team have sequenced the genomes of Neanderthals and Denisovans more clearly and accurately than any past gene-mapping, which help us to compare human DNA over time. When they compared the genomes of those ancient human populations to those of recent humans, they concluded that our homo sapiens ancestors interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans …as well as populations we have yet to discover.

The new Denisovan genome indicates that this enigmatic population got around: Reich said at the meeting that they interbred with Neanderthals and with the ancestors of human populations that now live in China and other parts of East Asia, in addition to Oceanic populations, as his team previously reported. Most surprisingly, Reich said, the new genomes indicate that Denisovans interbred with another extinct population of archaic humans that lived in Asia more than 30,000 years ago, which is neither human nor Neanderthal.

The meeting was abuzz with conjecture about the identity of this potentially new population of humans. “We don’t have the faintest idea,” says Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the London Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the work.

Until they find evidence of one or more "mystery human" populations, we can pretend they were extraterrestrials. You know you want to. Read more about this research at nature. -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: Emőke Dénes)

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