How did the modern human evolve? Apparently, not in a narrow evolutionary path as previously thought. New evidence suggests that modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and an unknown species of archaic human used to get it on. As quoted from Nature,
“Updated genome sequences from two extinct relatives of modern humans suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.”
The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal, and the other from a Denisovan, reveal that interbreeding was going on between several members of ancient hominid groups. This would explain why some modern people contain a little bit of Neanderthal DNA. Even some tribal populations today, such as the Papua New Guineans, have 4% of Denisovan DNA in them. The Denisovan are a group of hominids named after a cave in Russia where they were first discovered.
Sorry, I know you are already probably tired of this hominid orgy story, but this isn’t the end. Researchers analyzing fossil bones at the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany have just extracted the oldest known human DNA. This 300,000 year old genetic strand was taken from the preserved thigh bone of an unknown human species discovered in northern Spain. Genetic analysis of the bones revealed that the species was most closely related to the Denisovan. So, what does this mean for modern human evolution theories? According to population geneticist Michael Hammer via the WSJ:
“This tells us something interesting about how our species evolved….It may be that interbreeding was a common process in all of human evolution.”
In other words, some weird interspecies sh*t went on a long time ago and eventually created us. You dirty mutt.