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Research Finds Humans Interbred with Four Extinct Hominin Species



The modern Homo Sapiens migrated from Africa, meeting and interbreeding with other species – four hominin according to the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Of all these, only Neanderthals and Denisovans have been recorded so far, but the remaining two unnamed species’ DNA have been detected in samples throughout modern populations.

“Each of us carry within ourselves the genetic traces of these past mixing events,” said Dr. João Teixeira, co-author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“These archaic groups were widespread and genetically diverse, and they survive in each of us. Their story is an integral part of how we came to be.”

“For example, all present-day populations show about 2% of Neanderthal ancestry which means that Neanderthal mixing with the ancestors of modern humans occurred soon after they left Africa, probably around 50,000 to 55,000 years ago somewhere in the Middle East.”

But, modern human ancestors must have traveled further east than assumed and met up with a integrated with a minimum of four other archaic human groups.

“Island Southeast Asia was already a crowded place when what we call modern humans first reached the region just before 50,000 years ago,” Dr. Teixeira said.

“At least three other archaic human groups appear to have occupied the area, and the ancestors of modern humans mixed with them before the archaic humans became extinct.”

Reconstruction of Homo floresiensis, an extinct hominin species that lived on the Indonesian island of Flores between 74,000 and 18,000 years ago. Image credit: Elisabeth Daynes.

Dr. Teixeira and his colleague, Professor Alan Cooper analyzed archeaological, genetic and fossil evidence and remains and with additional information provided, reconstructed their migration routes and even fossil vegetation records.

What was interesting for example was how events mixed throughout Southern Asia with ‘Hominin 1’ and modern humans mixing.

Denisovans and ‘Hominin 2’ were recorded interbreeding throughout Southeast Asia and the Philippines and Flores, Indonesia.

“We knew the story out of Africa wasn’t a simple one, but it seems to be far more complex than we have contemplated,” Dr. Teixeira said.

“The Island Southeast Asia region was clearly occupied by several archaic human groups, probably living in relative isolation from each other for hundreds of thousands of years before the ancestors of modern humans arrived.”

“The timing also makes it look like the arrival of modern humans was followed quickly by the demise of the archaic human groups in each area.”

The inferred route of the movement of anatomically modern humans through Island Southeast Asia around 50,000 years ago (yellow and red arrows): modern-day hunter-gatherer populations with genetic data are shown in red, and farming populations are shown in black; the estimated genomic content of EH1 (purple), Denisovan (red), EH2 (brown), and nonarchaic (gray) in modern-day populations is shown in pie charts, as a relative proportion to that seen in Australo-Papuans (full circles); gray all populations containing large amounts of Denisovan genomic content are found east of Wallace’s Line; independent introgression events with Denisovan groups are inferred for both the common ancestor of Australo-Papuan, Philippines, and ISEA populations (red circled 2) and, separately, for the Philippines (red circled 4); the signal for a separate introgression with an unknown hominin on Flores, recorded in genomic data from modern-day populations, remains less secure (brown-circled 5); the precise location of introgression events 2, 4, and 5 currently remains unknown. Image credit: Teixeira & Cooper, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1904824116.


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