Through artificial intelligence (AI), scientists have now learned that we may have a completely new and as yet unidentified subspecies of archaic human ancestors after AI’s prediction of this new group, which was picked up by evolutionary biologists in Europe.
As Popular Mechanics reports, these ancestors of ours would have been based in Asia, and scientists believe that they would been a hybrid species stemming from Denisovans and Neanderthals, both of which eventually broke away from the ancestor they had in common around 744,000 years ago.
Neanderthals, of course, made their homes in Europe and some of the regions in western Asia. Denisovans lived in many different places, and their remains have been discovered in a wide range of areas which stretch from Siberia to Central Asia. They were gifted with their name after the first discovery of one of their bones in the Denisova Cave, which is located in the Altai Mountains.
While Neanderthals and Denisovans generally stayed within their own groups, they almost certainly bred with early modern humans, but learning more about the breeding of different species is a daunting task, and Òscar Lao, principal investigator from the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico, explained that AI was utilized “to learn to predict human demographics using genomes obtained through hundreds of thousands of simulations.”
— Popular Mechanics (@PopMech) January 17, 2019
“Whenever we run a simulation we are traveling along a possible path in the history of humankind. Of all simulations, deep learning allows us to observe what makes the ancestral puzzle fit together,” Lao noted.
The AI simulations that were conducted have suggested that there is almost certainly a hybrid ancestor of Neanderthals and Denisovans, and this might not be a huge stretch of the imagination when considering the fact that in August of 2018, a genetic hybrid made the news after it was discovered that the 90,000-year-old remains of a woman were found to have belonged to someone who boasted a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.
While the vast majority of scientists are of the opinion that Neanderthals and Denisovans mated with each other, as evidenced by the recent case of their genetic offspring last year, the main difficulty in proving this is the sparseness of Denisovan remains, according to Kelley Harris, a population geneticist at the University of Washington, who has stated that “the number of pure Denisovan bones that have been found I can count on one hand.”
The new study in which AI has predicted the existence of an identified hybrid species of Neanderthals and Denisovans has been published in Nature Communications.