Researchers thought that Neanderthals interbred with other prehistoric human species only on some rare occasions, but a recent study revealed that ancient humans lived in a “world of debauchery,” as they interbred with their “cousins” very often, throughout 35,000 years.
After they studied Neanderthal DNA in modern East Asians and Europeans, scientists discovered that our ancestors left Africa and started to interbreed with other human species about 75,000 years ago. According to the “1,000 Genomes” project, that analyzed the DNA of 1,000 people from all over the world, suggests that ancient humans lived in a “world of debauchery.”
“I do think there was probably much more interbreeding than we initially suspected. Some of the fantastical aspects come from a lack of a clear definition of ‘species’ in this case. It is always very hard to know if an extinct group constituted a different species or not. My guess is that any time two different human groups lived in the same place at the same time for a while, they probably had some sort of breeding contact,” said Dr. Joshua Schraiber.
Ancient Humans Interbred With Other Human Species
“The scenario of multiple episodes of modern-human-Neanderthal interbreeding fits with the emerging view of complex and frequent interactions between different hominin groups,” also said Dr. Fabrizio Mafessoni, a geneticist who did not participate in the study.
According to some other previous studies, the Denisovans interbred with the Neanderthals and ancient humans frequently. The Denisovans have been identified as ancient humans since 2008, in southern Siberia, Russia. The scientists dubbed them as very different than the Neanderthals and other early humans.
“These findings indicate a longer-term, more complex interaction between humans and Neanderthals than was previously appreciated. It had recent Neanderthal ancestry. These fossils are about 37,000 to 38,000 years old – so at least some interbreeding must have been going on as recently as then. This pattern of Neanderthal ancestry in modern human genomes was initially interpreted as evidence of a single period of interbreeding, occurring shortly after the out-of-Africa bottleneck,” added Joshua Schraiber, referring to the discovery an early human skull in Romania, in 2002.
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