The genomes of ancient Neandertals and Denisovans indicate that there was interbreeding between those groups and anatomically modern humans, and a recent analysis, presented at a Royal Society meeting in London on ancient DNA, indicates the presence of a fourth, extinct archaic hominid population, Nature News reports.
“What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a Lord of the Rings-type world — that there were many hominid populations,” Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London, tells Nature News.
Harvard Medical School's David Reich reported at the meeting that he and his colleagues have refined the Neandertal and Denisovan genomes, filling in gaps and correcting errors, Nature News says. He noted that the Denisovans appeared to move around a bit as their genomes reflected possible interbreeding with Neandertals, with the ancestors of Oceanians and ancestors of modern humans in East Asian, and with this fourth group of archaic hominids that appeared to have lived in Asia more than 30,000 years ago.
According to Nature News, the meeting was "abuzz with conjecture about the identity of this unknown population of humans."