A new study from Uppsala University suggests that East Asian ancient humans bred with a hominin species called Denisovans, a Siberian genus that existed over 40,000 years ago.
Researches have performed tests that point to the possibility of modern man sharing a gene pool with the long-dead species.
Denisovans, named after a cave in Siberia where their bone fragments were first found, most likely descended from a common ancestor of the Neanderthals and humans around 1 million years ago. Examiners think Denisovans may have split from the ancestral tree nearly 300,000 years ago.
Professor Mattias Jakobsson of Sweden’s Uppsala University was the lead researcher on the recent project.
“We’ll probably be uncovering more events like these… The genetic difference between Neanderthals and Denisovans is roughly as great as the maximal level of variation among us modern humans,” said Professor Jakobsson to LiveScience.
Denisovan DNA influence is stronger in Southeast Asian and Oceanic islanders than any other population. Jakobsson said the interbreeding between the extinct cavemen and human beings happened anywhere from 23,000 to 45,000 years ago.
Jakobsson and his graduate understudy, Pontus Skoglund, based their study on small bits of genetic material discovered thousands of years after the actual specimens vanished.
“We don’t really know what they looked like, how they behaved or anything like that,” Professor Jakobsson said. “It’s really genetics that gives us an edge here.”
The researchers’ plan to use genetic records of the Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans to reveal the complexities of the human genome, and give “richer detail” to what is largely a murky picture of possible prehistory.
Evolution is not the only school of thought concerning the origin of Homo sapiens, however.
Some Christians believe that these types of studies conflict with the traditional Christian views, such as “God created man in his own image” found in the Bible’s Genesis. Meanwhile, Young Earth creationists assert that the Bible should be read literally; meaning the world and universe were created in the last 10,000 years.
Old Earth creationism, another popular Christian philosophy, maintains that God created the Earth, but that the “seven days” referred to in Genesis is a metaphor for longer periods of time. Other philosophers counter that God could have used evolutionary tactics as a sort of laboratory to create man and animals, a term called theistic evolution.
The Christian models have one thing in common: a realization that hard “evidence” would be nearly impossible to find. Jakobsson’s model, conversely, relies heavily on the statistical data of about 1,500 human DNA samples.
The Uppsala University program also ran various computer programs to determine if and how the data they are using could be biased.