Humans Had an Unknown ‘Ghost’ Ancestor: A New Study

Fareeha Arshad

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Recent studies on the human genome using artificial intelligence have revealed that humans previously had a ‘ghost’ ancestor.

The remnants of a thirteen-year-old girl who died 50,000 years ago revealed some fascinating information about how our ancestors lived thousands of years ago. One thing was very evident from studying her bone structure and the details of her skeleton: she was a human hybrid, a product of two different human species. Studies have confirmed that her mother was a Neanderthal and her father was a Denisovan. This means mating between two separate species was not uncommon.

As it turns out, this teenager was not the only hybrid at that time. Other strangely unique combinations were also walking the earth over millennia ago. In 2019, scientists used artificial intelligence to investigate other unknown human ancestor species alongside Homo sapiens.

According to the Spanish biologist Jaume Bertranpetit, when most humans left Africa over 80,000 years ago and migrated to other parts of the world, they mated with each other to give rise to the modern human population. The modern humans that came to Eurasia also procreated with the other ancient hominid species, some of which became extinct soon after.

For a long time, archaeologists unanimously agreed that the modern humans were sexually active with only Neanderthals and the Denisovans, like in the case of the thirteen-year-old. However, recently, a third blast from the past has been identified in Eurasian DNA with the help of deep learning algorithms and statistics called the ‘Bayesian interference’.

The ghost ancestor

This unknown ghost ancestor is speculated to belong to an archaic ghost population that the modern humans mated with after coming out of Africa.

According to the study published in Nature, this ‘third introgression’ is either linked to the Neanderthal-Denisova population or had diverged from the original Denisova population early on. The researchers further argued that this third population could have been a hybrid of the Neanderthals and Denisovans, thus creating a unique clan.

A few other works published in early 2019 identified a ‘definite third interbreeding event’ that happened around the same time. However, scientists are still on look for other possibilities. The lack of fossils in support of this research raises many questions that remain to be answered.

Regardless, this groundbreaking study will pave a path to explain the progression of human history and the evolution of humans as we know them today. So far, scientists were convinced that only two populations shaped Homo sapiens; but this study hints that there is much more to be understood about the human genome and our divergent ancestry.

What are your thoughts on this missing link about our ancestors? Did we have a third human species that continue to dominate our genes even today? Do let us know in the comments section.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

Texas State
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