We’re all well aware that the islands of the South Pacific are some of the most unique places on Earth – but new research suggests they may be even more unique than we previously realized.
Research from the University of Texas shows that the DNA of Melanesians, those people who live northeast of Australia in Papua New Guinea and the surrounding islands, contain traces of a previously unknown, and long extinct, hominid species.
Computer analysis suggests the unidentified species DNA is unlikely to be either Neanderthal or Denisovan, who were previously the only two known predecessors to modern humans, and both of which are well represented in the fossil record.
These new findings, however, suggest a third, different human ancestor.
Ryan Bohlender told Science News.
We’re missing a population, or we’re misunderstanding something about the relationships. Human history is a lot more complicated than we thought it was.
The current theory is that the new ancestor may be an extinct, distant cousin of the Neanderthals.
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