Nav: Home

Out of Africa and into an archaic human melting pot

July 15, 2019

Genetic analysis has revealed that the ancestors of modern humans interbred with at least five different archaic human groups as they moved out of Africa and across Eurasia.

While two of the archaic groups are currently known - the Neandertals and their sister group the Denisovans from Asia ¬- the others remain unnamed and have only been detected as traces of DNA surviving in different modern populations. Island Southeast Asia appears to have been a particular hotbed of diversity.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) have mapped the location of past "mixing events" (analysed from existing scientific literature) by contrasting the levels of archaic ancestry in the genomes of present-day populations around the world.

"Each of us carry within ourselves the genetic traces of these past mixing events," says first author Dr João Teixeira, Australian Research Council Research Associate, ACAD, at the University of Adelaide. "These archaic groups were widespread and genetically diverse, and they survive in each of us. Their story is an integral part of how we came to be.

"For example, all present-day populations show about 2% of Neandertal ancestry which means that Neandertal mixing with the ancestors of modern humans occurred soon after they left Africa, probably around 50,000 to 55,000 years ago somewhere in the Middle East."

But as the ancestors of modern humans travelled further east they met and mixed with at least four other groups of archaic humans.

"Island Southeast Asia was already a crowded place when what we call modern humans first reached the region just before 50,000 years ago," says Dr Teixeira. "At least three other archaic human groups appear to have occupied the area, and the ancestors of modern humans mixed with them before the archaic humans became extinct."

Using additional information from reconstructed migration routes and fossil vegetation records, the researchers have proposed there was a mixing event in the vicinity of southern Asia between the modern humans and a group they have named "Extinct Hominin 1".

Other interbreeding occurred with groups in East Asia, in the Philippines, the Sunda shelf (the continental shelf that used to connect Java, Borneo and Sumatra to mainland East Asia), and possibly near Flores in Indonesia, with another group they have named "Extinct Hominin 2".

"We knew the story out of Africa wasn't a simple one, but it seems to be far more complex than we have contemplated," says Dr Teixeira. "The Island Southeast Asia region was clearly occupied by several archaic human groups, probably living in relative isolation from each other for hundreds of thousands of years before the ancestors of modern humans arrived.

"The timing also makes it look like the arrival of modern humans was followed quickly by the demise of the archaic human groups in each area."
-end-
Media Contact:

Dr João Teixeira, ARC Research Associate, Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, The University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)484 335 818, joao.teixeira@adelaide.edu.au

Robyn Mills, Media Officer, University of Adelaide. Phone: +61 (0)8 8313 6341, Mobile: +61 (0)410 689 084, robyn.mills@adelaide.edu.au

University of Adelaide

Related Modern Humans Articles:

Insight into competitive advantage of modern humans over Neanderthals
A team of Japanese and Italian researchers, including from Tohoku University, have evidenced mechanically delivered projectile weapons in Europe dating to 45,000-40,000 years -- more than 20,000 years than previously thought.
Extinct human species gave modern humans an immunity boost
Garvan researchers have discovered a gene variant that sheds new light on how human immunity was fine-tuned through history.
What the noggin of modern humans' ancestor would have looked like
Despite having lived about 300,000 years ago, the oldest ancestor of all members of our species had a surprisingly modern skull -- as suggested by a model created by CNRS researcher Aurélien Mounier and Cambridge University professor Marta Mirazón Lahr.
Exposing modern forgers
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a process that can provide conclusive evidence with regard to modern fakes of paintings, even in cases where the forger used old materials.
Neanderthals and modern humans diverged at least 800,000 years ago
Neanderthals and modern humans diverged at least 800,000 years ago, substantially earlier than indicated by most DNA-based estimates, according to new research by a UCL academic.
More Modern Humans News and Modern Humans Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...