- Genome analysis of Neanderthal and human-like group called Denisovans
- It reveals ancient bedfellows may have included ‘mystery human ancestor’
- Has been likened to Lord Of The Rings world of creatures which interbred
PUBLISHED: 17:13 EST, 19 November 2013 | UPDATED: 09:55 EST, 20 November 2013
Ancient humans rampantly indulged in interspecies sex in a Lord Of The Rings-type world of different human groups, new DNA analysis has revealed.
And our ancient bedfellows appear to have included a ‘mystery human ancestor’, which has not yet been identified.
Genome analysis from a Neanderthal and another group of ancient humans, the Denisovans, was presented to a meeting of the Royal Society in London, and it included ‘snippets’ of the mystery DNA – neither human nor Neanderthal.
It suggests that interbreeding was rampant and more widespread between the human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago than previously thought, scientists say.
Researchers compared DNA from Neanderthals (skull, pictured) and another group of ancient humans called Denisovans
The findings come from fresh analysis of DNA from a Denisovan, a hominin discovered after the finding of bone and teeth remains in a Siberian cave, and published in Nature.
The new study of the genomes was carried out by David Reich of Harvard Medical School.
He said: ‘Denisovans appear more distinct from modern humans than Neanderthals.
He added: ‘Denisovans harbour ancestry from an unknown archaic population, unrelated to Neanderthals’, New Scientist reports.
Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London who was present at the presentation, said: ‘What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a Lord Of The Rings-type world – that there were many hominid populations.’
It comes after ancient viruses inherited from Neanderthals were found in modern human DNA.
Scientists are investigating possible links between the ‘endogenous retroviruses’, which are hardwired into DNA, and modern diseases such as AIDs and cancer.
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