Neanderthals weren’t the only ones modern humans liked to sleep with.By Mary Papenfuss
March 18, 2018 - huffingtonpost.com
It turns out that modern humans have a more complicated past than scientists realized. Researchers have discovered that populations of Homo sapiens swapped DNA in at least two regions of the world with a mysterious group of hominids known as Denisovans.
The Denisovans appear to have made a contribution to the modern human gene pool ? not nearly as significant as the Neanderthals, but notable.
Denisovans date back as far as 50,000 years ago, based on tests of a little Denisovan girl’s finger bone and a bit of molar discovered in a Siberian cave in 2008. The new species was called Denisovan after the name of the cave in the Altai mountains.
Scientists managed in 2016 to trace DNA of the Denisovans to some Melanesians — who live in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands — who were found to have 5 percent of Denisovan ancestry. Some East and South Asians have close to 0.2 percent. (Neanderthals have contributed between 1 percent and 4 percent of the genome in people in several continents.)
But after a new DNA survey of humans, scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle were surprised to discover a new distinct set of Denisovan ancestry among some modern East Asians — particularly among Han Chinese, Chinese Dai and Japanese. This Denisovan DNA is more closely related to the sample from the fossils discovered in Siberia, according to the study published in the journal Cell.
The discovery demonstrates that there were at least two distinct populations of Denisovans living in Asia, and likely somewhat geographically distant.Full Article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-homo-sapiens-mix-with-denisovans_us_5aadd747e4b0c33361b0fc72
_________________________________Why Am I Neanderthal?
When our ancestors first migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago, they were not alone. At that time, at least two other species of hominid cousins walked the Eurasian landmass—Neanderthals and Denisovans. As our modern human ancestors migrated through Eurasia, they encountered the Neanderthals and interbred. Because of this, a small amount of Neanderthal DNA was introduced into the modern human gene pool.
Everyone living outside of Africa today has a small amount of Neanderthal in them, carried as a living relic of these ancient encounters. A team of scientists comparing the full genomes of the two species concluded that most Europeans and Asians have approximately 2 percent Neanderthal DNA. Indigenous sub-Saharan Africans have none, or very little Neanderthal DNA because their ancestors did not migrate through Eurasia.
On one level, it’s not surprising that modern humans were able to interbreed with their close cousins. According to one theory, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and all modern humans are all descended from the ancient human Homo heidelbergensis.
Between 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, an ancestral group of H. heidelbergensis
left Africa and then split shortly after. One branch ventured northwestward into West Asia and Europe and became the Neanderthals. The other branch moved east, becoming Denisovans. By 250,000 years ago H. heidelbergensis
in Africa had become Homo sapiens
. Our modern human ancestors did not begin their own exodus from Africa until about 70,000 years ago, when they expanded into Eurasia and encountered their ancient cousins.
The revelation that our ancient ancestors mated with one another could help explain one of the great mysteries in anthropology: Why did the Neanderthals disappear? After first venturing out of Africa, Neanderthals thrived in Europe for several hundred thousand years. But they mysteriously died out about 30,000 years ago, roughly around the same time that modern humans arrived in Europe.
Some scientists have suggested modern humans out-competed or outright killed the Neanderthals. But the new genetic evidence provides support for another theory: Perhaps our ancestors made love, not war, with their European cousins, and the Neanderthal lineage disappeared because it was absorbed into the much larger human population.
Even though Neanderthals and Denisovans are both extinct, modern humanity may owe them a debt of gratitude. A 2011 study by Stanford University researchers concluded that many of us carry ancient variants of immune system genes involved in destroying pathogens that arose after we left Africa. One possibility is that these gene variants came from other archaic humans.https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/neanderthal/