AI Predicts Humans Have an Unknown Ancestor

Neanderthals and their Denisovan cousins likely formed a new species, an A.I. says. That muddies human evolution even further.

Using artificial intelligence, a number of European evolutionary biologists now believe that humans have an ancient ancestor whose identity is unknown to modern science. The ancestor, based out of Asia, would have been a hybrid of Neanderthals and Denisovans, a subspecies of archaic humans.

The Denisovans are less well-known than the famous Neanderthals, but the two were separate groups who split off from their common ancestor around 744,000 years ago. While Neanderthals settled in Europe and parts of western Asia, Denisovan remains have been found in central Asia and Siberia—their name comes from the Denisova Cave in the Siberian Altai Mountains, where a Denisovan bone was first discovered in 2008.

The groups were genetically independent from each other. They also likely both cross-bred with modern humans. But when researching the demographics of species nearly 800,000 years ago, scientists have struggled with their complexity. That’s where A.I. comes in.

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