Humans, Denisovans, Neanderthals – we have heard of all three of these. Just in case you are not aware of what Denisovans and Neanderthals were, allow us the opportunity to explain. Both of them were human-like species that are now extinct and they were in fact, our closest relatives in ancient times. Denisovans lived some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago and so did the Neanderthals. Interestingly, some of our human ancestors also lived during those times.
Now these three species actually enjoyed a very spiced up sex life and used to interbreed. As a result, some of the anatomically modern humans share the same DNA with Denisovans and Neanderthals. This interbreeding was pretty much rampant and widespread some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago especially in Asia and Europe.
In November 2013 however, something interesting was found out. During a meeting on ancient DNA held in London, a study report was submitted to the Royal Society. In the study it was found that genome of one of the Denisovans had a segment of unknown DNA, thus proving that Denisovans bred with unknown species that belonged to Asia.
The report sparked a series or debates about the unknown species. Some said that the unknown species actually branched off from Homo heidelbernensis who lived in Africa more than 30,000 years ago and moved to Asia. According to the proponents of this theory, this unknown species was the ancestor of Neanderthals residing in Europe. Paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer from Natural History Museum in London admitted that he had no idea of what species it was and that the theory of the species branching off from Homo heidelbernesis is pure guess.
So, who were the mystery people? How did the Denisovans get in touch with them? Whatever the answer be, the fact is that Neanderthals and Denisovans are not the only extinct ancient ancestors of modern humans. Some of us may actually share the DNA of the mystery people who live nearly half a million years ago.