Thursday, September 6, 2012

Inspiring Science: Debating our ancestors' sex life

Around 60,000 years ago, modern humans left Africa, the cradle of our species. As we spread across the face of the Earth, we discovered that we weren’t the first or the only humans to make that sojourn. From Central Asia to Europe, we met our distant cousins the Neanderthals, descendants of a 500,000 year old migration; further east were the Denisovans, ranging from Sibera to Southeast Asia. Although these other humans died out around 30,000 years ago, some comfort can be found in the knowledge that a part of them lives on in us. Genetic evidence uncovered in the past few years suggests that our migrating ancestors may have mated with these other humans during their encounters. Not everyone was convinced, though, launching an ongoing debate about whether the genetic similarity might be due to common ancestry rather than inbreeding.

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