By: April Carson
She was unique, a teenage girl from over 50,000 years ago. Scientists believe she may have been a 'hybrid' ancestor to modern humans because they had never seen anyone like her before.
Until recently, researchers were unaware of the fact she wasn't alone. In 2019, scientists used artificial intelligence (AI) to study humanity's prehistory and found evidence of an unknown human ancestor species that modern humans encountered and mated with on the long journey out of Africa thousands of years ago.
"Approximately 80,000 years ago," explained evolutionary biologist Jaume Bertranpetit from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain, "part of the human population who were already modern humans left Africa to migrate to other continents. This 'Out of Africa' event gave rise to all current populations."
Using AI, the researchers identified a distinct branch in the tree of human evolution, which they dubbed "the Ghost Population."
While early humans were journeying across Eurasia, they also interbred with other now-extinct hominid species.
Before 2010, researchers thought that the only sexual partners outside of Homo sapiens were Neanderthals and Denisovans.
By using deep learning algorithms to sort through ancient and modern human DNA, researchers were able to identify a third ex long ago in Eurasian DNA.
This Ghost Population was most likely a hominid species from the same family tree as Neanderthals, Denisovans and modern humans.
It is believed that this ancestor existed sometime between 70,000 to 55,000 years ago; however, not enough evidence exists to make any definitive conclusions about their exact timeline or origin.
The researchers found evidence of what they call a "third introgression" – proof that modern humans interbred with an archaic population during the African exodus. Statistical techniques, like Bayesian inference, were used to come to this conclusion.
The implications of this discovery are groundbreaking. Not only did humans interbreed with an unknown hominid species, but the AI technology used to make the breakthrough indicates that similar techniques can be employed in other scientific fields as well.
The researchers wrote in their paper that it's possible this third population of humanity was a mix of Neanderthals and Denisovans, meaning the population is either related to the Neanderthal-Denisova clade or diverged early from the Denisova lineage.
The findings could also provide insight into the evolutionary history of humans and other species. With artificial intelligence being used to make scientific discoveries, we can now explore new areas of science that weren't possible before. This discovery marks a major step forward in our understanding of human evolution.
Deep learning has contributed to a potential corroboration of the existence of teenage girl 'hybrid fossils.' Although more work needs to be done, and the research projects themselves aren't directly linked, this is an exciting development.
Recently, a hybrid specimen was discovered in Denisova that matches our theory. However, until we have more information, other possibilities can't be ruled out," Mayukh Mondal from the University of Tartu said in a press statement when the discovery was first announced.
New discoveries in this field of science are being made rapidly.
In 2018, more research was conducted and it was determined that there is evidence of a third interbreeding. This event happened alongside the Denisovans and Neanderthals. In 2019, two papers were published that went into great detail about how these extinct species intersected with one another through interbreeding.
The incredible thing about this discovery is that scientists were able to use AI to identify an unknown ancestor of humans. This is a remarkable feat, considering it wasn't until the 1950s that scientists began using DNA testing to trace our ancestral history.
Although we need more research, using AI to study human ancestry is a new and mostly uncharted technique. Also, the fossil evidence we have isn't very comprehensive.
The team's research not only explains introgression, but it also uncovers a long-forgotten process. This dalliance not only informs part of who we are today, but it is also something that has been forgotten for a long time.
Bertranpetit told Smithsonian, "We attempted to find these places of high divergence in the genome and see which are Neanderthal vs Denisovan. We wanted to know if they explained the whole picture."
"When we remove the Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA, there is still something that looks very different."
Thanks to artificial intelligence, the team was able to identify an unknown ancestor in our human genome. They named this ancestor ‘the Ghost’ and it is believed to have lived at least 50,000 years ago.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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