Pacific Islanders Carry The Genes Of An Unknown Human Species

Grace Higgins | March 11th, 2019

When looking at the DNA found in modern Pacific Islanders of today, humans that live in the South Pacific and Northeast of Australia, scientist have discovered evidence of DNA that is from an extinct human species.

sciencenews.org

According to the gene models that researchers have been able to produce, the species are not thought to be Neanderthal or Denisovan. These are two very ancient species that do have fossil records and have been intensively studied, but the traces found in Pacific Islanders today appear to be from a third species. This third unknown human species has so far completely eluded archaeologists and has never been found or studied.

This means that when talking about evolution or trying to figure out how humans evolved, there is an entire part of the population that is missing from the equation. Ryan Bohlender a geneticist from the University of Texas has been looking into our ancestors DNA and trying to come to the bottom of the puzzle. His team of researchers is now suggesting that our mingling with extinct human species like the Neanderthals or the Denisovans is not the whole story.

The belief comes from the theory that between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago our first ancestors migrated out of Africa and first came into contact with our hominid species on the Eurasian landmass. And this contact left a mark in our DNA that can still be found today. Europeans and Asian can find a distinct trace of Neanderthal DNA in their own genetics.

The problem always comes down to fossils, for Neanderthals we have found many. But even for Denisovan, there has only ever been a couple of fossils found – with just a finger bone and some teeth found in a Siberian cave. And without fossils, studies are much more difficult. Scientists need something to analyze to check DNA and genetics. So we may never know what our third missing ancestral link was, though potentially on the Pacific Islands of old, archaeologists may one day find a clue?

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