It appears even archaeologists aren’t safe from the 21st century takeover, after an artificially intelligent algorithm traced a previously unknown human species using DNA from present-day Asian people.
The groundbreaking research, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests the existence of a now-extinct mystery hominid interbred species of Neanderthals and Denisovans, and cross bred with ‘Out of Africa’ modern humans in Asia.
The discovery was made by an AI algorithm developed by researchers at several European institutions using DNA from modern-day people with Asian ancestry.
The breakthrough marks the first time deep learning has been used to better understand human evolution, and could add archaeologists to the growing list of soon-to-be defunct professions.
“The study is paving the way for this technology to be applied in other questions in biology, genomics and evolution,” according to a statement released by the Centre for Genomic Regulation.
Neanderthals originated from Europe and Denisovans spread to Siberia, southeast Asia, and Oceania. Tens of thousands of years ago, this mystery hominid then bred with modern humans in Asia following the ‘Out of Africa’ migration.
“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,” explained Jaume Bertranpetit, principal investigator at the IBE and head of department at the UPF.
From that time onwards humans “cross bred with Neanderthals in all continents except Africa,” said Bertranpetit. However, evidence of cross-breeding with a third species had not been confirmed until now.
Modern DNA from some Asians reflected the intermingling and existence of a mysterious third ancestor that, until now, researchers hadn’t been able to pinpoint. The groundbreaking AI algorithm can detect patterns from the nervous system of different mammals and simulate the historic path of a person’s ancestral makeup.