A new study has found that aboriginal Australians and Pacific Islanders may share DNA with an unknown and extinct human species. While it was once believed that the group only shared DNA with Denisovans and Neanderthals, this newest study indicates yet another group’s DNA.
The study was conducted by a research team that was led by Ryan Bohlended, who is a statistical geneticist from the University of Texas. Bohlender explained to Science News that he felt as though he and his team were “missing a population,” or “misunderstanding something about the relationships.”
He presented his team’s analysis to the American Society of Human Genetics in Canada. In their studies, they used a computer model to study the amount of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA that currently resides in human beings. Their findings were that Europeans and Chinese people have around 2.8% of Neanderthal DNA. In South Pacific nations that include Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, West Papua and the Maluku Islands have about 2.74% originating from Neanderthals.
However, the Denisovan DNA in the same populations amounted to around 1.1%, instead of the 3-6% previously estimated in other studies. This is what led Mr. Bohlender’s team to believe that a third group of hominids must have bred with ancient Melanesians.
Furthermore, they stated that the third extinct human species must have branched off from their common ancestor 440,000 years ago. “Overall, our findings confirm the human family tree is more complicated than we think it is,” said Dr. Bohlender.
Continuing, “other archaic populations are likely to have existed, like the Denisovans, who we didn’t know about except through genetics.”
For now, it remains unknown as to who the third species would be. Science Alert noted that Bohlender’s estimates have not been peer-reviewed as of yet. If another party was to investigate, the entire hypothesis could once again shift. However, it remains obvious that there is still much for us to learn regarding the human species. As scientists continue to push forward with their research it is possible that we may one day have clarity regarding the history of the human race.