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Mystery Human Species Mated with Our Ancestors, Says Study

First Posted: Nov 21, 2013 10:28 AM EST

The genome sequences from extinct human species, the Denisovans and Neanderthals, suggest that our ancient relatives from Europe and Asia interbred with each other more rigorously than previously believed.

These species included one un-named extinct human species from Asia, which existed above 30,000 years ago. The study was presented to the Royal Society meeting held in London, Nov.18.

The scientists were abuzz about the unknown Asian specie mentioned in the study and speculated that the population may have branched off to Asia from  the Homo heidelbergensis, who resided in Africa about half a million years ago. They are believed to be the ancestors of Europe's Neanderthals.  "We don't have the faintest idea," said Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the London Natural History Museum, Nature reported. Stringer was not a part of the research.  

"Perhaps it lived on in Asia as well," Stringer guesstimated.

Stringer also guessed Homo erectus to be linked to the mysterious genome, as that group existed about 143,000 years back and lived in Africa as well as Asia, New Scientist reported. They might have lived in the same areas as the Denisovans but they did not survive long enough, hence, this theory also has naysayers.

Traces of the unknown new genome were detected in two teeth and a finger bone of a Denisovan, which was discovered in a Siberian cave. There is not much data available about the appearance of Denisovans due to lack of their fossils' availability, but the geneticists and researchers succeeded in arranging their entire genome very precisely.

"What it begins to suggest is that we're looking at a 'Lord of the Rings'-type world - that there were many hominid populations,"  Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London, who was at the meeting but was not a part of the research team, told Nature.

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