Researchers have uncovered evidence of a previously unknown population of ancient humans. It is believed that this 'ghost population' lived in Africa almost half a million years ago. The researchers also added that the genes of this 'ghost population' live on in people even today.
The discovery was made when the researchers found traces of the ancient humans during the examination of genomes of people from West Africa. Reports indicate that almost 1/5 of their DNA appears to have originated from this 'ghost population'.
According to reports, the scientists believe that the ancestors of modern west Africans at some point interbred with the yet-to-be-discovered 'ghost population'. The researchers said that this incident was similar to when ancient Europeans mated with Neanderthals.
In ancient times the world was home to many related species or subspecies of human and when these groups came into contact, mating was not out of the question. Earlier studies have claimed that ancient humans once roamed Africa. But as of yet, there is no fossil or DNA evidence to prove the same.
Arun Durvasula and Sriram Sankararaman, two of the researchers behind the study obtained 405 genome samples from 4 west African populations and by using statistical data were able to work out wheater there was interbreeding in the past. The results showed that in all the genomes interbreeding had occurred.
After this discovery scientists scoured African genomes for DNA that was different from that of the modern human. This allowed them to narrow down their search and identify the sequence that most likely belonged to the 'ghost population'.
Sankararaman later revealed that the interbreeding seems to have left a substantial impact because the mysterious genomes accounted for 2 per cent to 19 per cent of the genetic history. The researchers have taken genome samples from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia.
This discovery is far from conclusive but as per the best estimates of the researchers, the ghost population existed between 360,000 and 1 million years ago.
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