A mysterious “ghost population” of now-extinct ancient human-like creatures may have interbred with early humans living in West Africa, scientists say.
Researchers suggest DNA from this group makes up between 2% and 19% of modern West Africans’ genetic ancestry.
They believe the interbreeding occurred about 43,000 years ago.
The new study was published in Science Advances this week.
It suggests that ancestors of modern West Africans interbred with a yet-undiscovered species of archaic human, similar to how ancient Europeans mated with Neanderthals, and Oceanic populations with Denisovans.
The research sheds more light on how archaic hominins added to the genetic variation of present-day Africans, which has been poorly understood even though it is the most genetically diverse continent.
“As we get more data from diverse populations – and better quality data – our ability to sift through that data and excavate these ghost populations is going to get better,” Mr Sankararaman said.