Humans have long been coming exclusively part of the Homo sapiens branch of evolution’s great tree—however, our ancestors did snack on some forbidden fruit. People from Britain to Columbia carry a genome that proves Homo sapiens also mated with Homo neanderthalensis, a close relative. And it turns out we still weren’t done humping everybody.
The Washington Post reports that a team of scientists, with head researcher biostatistician Sharon R. Browning of the University of Washington, have released a study on “archaic DNA.” They searched the genomes of humans from Europe, Asia, and Oceania to test the theory that humans have freaked on their close cousins since the beginning of of our existence. We did!
A little known, human-like primate called the Denisovans, more similar to Neanderthals, have also left their stamp on the human genome. Denisovans and Neanderthals were known to have likely mixed together, perhaps contributing to their extinction—but this research indicates we absorbed quite a bit of them, too, if you know what I mean.
An older study on Denisovan remains indicated some cross-breeding took place in the ancient caves of Siberia’s Altai Mountains, but this new study established that it didn’t end there. Humans who crossed South Asia found a whole separate group of Denisovans to fornicate with. Since we’ve spread out so much since this early orgy, there are hints of Denisovans in the DNA of humans all over the world:
All groups studied, from British and Bengali people to Peruvians and Puerto Ricans, had a dense cluster that closely matched the Altai Neanderthals. Some populations also had a cluster that matched the Altai Denisovans, which was particularly pronounced in East Asians.
The surprise was a third cluster — not like the Neanderthal DNA and only partially resembling the Altai Denisovans. This, the authors concluded, was a second and separate pulse of Denisovan genes into the DNA blender.
Blend me up, baby! Free love in the caves. Not really sure what practical purpose this information provides to modern man, but it’s a fun thread in the tapestry of evolution. A tapestry of fucking.