Science 3 min read

AI Reveals Existence of a Third Unknown Human Ancestor

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According to reports, a joint team of researchers from Spain and Estonia has uncovered an unknown human ancestor that lived around 80,000 years ago.

Using artificial intelligence, the researchers managed to find evidence that could potentially explain the genetic links that modern humans have with our ancient cousins, Neanderthals and Denisovans.

“About 80,000 years ago, the so-called Out of Africa occurred, when part of the human population, which already consisted of modern humans, abandoned the African continent and migrated to other continents, giving rise to all the current populations,” Jaume Bertranpetit, principal investigator of the project from Institute of Genomics at the University of Tartu in Estonia, explained.

“We know that from that time onwards, modern human crossbred with Neanderthals in all the continents, except Africa, and with the Denisovans in Oceania and probably in South-East Asia, although the evidence of cross-breeding with a third extinct species had not been confirmed with any certainty.”

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One of the hurdles faced by the scientists was the complexity of the demographic models as there are no tools available today to analyze them.

For years, the existence of a third human ancestor that could explain the origin of some fragments in our DNA makeup had remained a mystery.

However, by using a deep learning system, the researchers were able to move past DNA and onto the next phase of the study: the demographics of ancestral populations.

“Deep learning is an algorithm that imitates the way in which the nervous system of mammals works, with different artificial neurons that specialise and learn to detect, in data, patterns that are important for performing a given task,” Òscar Lao, the project’s principal investigator from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Spain, said.

The team used deep learning to analyze the genomes they gathered from hundreds of thousands of simulations to predict human demographics. The artificial intelligence system reportedly allowed the researchers to observe results and “make the ancestral puzzle fit together.”

The result of the AI analysis revealed that the unknown human ancestor or hominid is a potential descendant of the Denisovans and Neanderthals. Surprisingly, the prediction made by the scientists through their AI system was backed by a recently discovered fossil with the same genetic characteristics.

“Our theory coincides with the hybrid specimen discovered recently in Denisova, although as yet we cannot rule out other possibilities,” Mayukh Mondal, one of the Estonian investigators, added.

Read More: Scientists Create Viable Origin of Life Theory Using Supercomputers

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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