Scientists uncover evidence of ghost population of ancient humans in ancient Africa

An Osun goddess worshipper prays to an idol at the Osun sacred Grove in Osogbo southwestern Nigeria as Osun worshippers thronged tropical woodland that forms the spiritual home of the river goddess Osun for the annual festival for one of the principal

No one has discovered remains or artifacts from this mysterious group of hominids, but we know they existed.

Some data inferred that the unknown human population might have been present in Africa in the past, but the recent discovery is the conclusive form proof that confirms this theory. What they found is the presence of DNA from "an archaic ghost population" in modern West African populations' genetic ancestry. It is believed that this "ghost population" lived in Africa nearly half a million years ago.

An analysis of the whole genome sequences of hundreds of modern-day West Africans, along with those of ancient Neanderthals and Denisovans, points to the existence of a "ghost" species that interbred with Homo sapiens before dying out, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, report yesterday (February 12) in Science Advances. Then, from about 124,000 years ago, that break-off hominin reunited with the ancestors of modern West Africans and interbred with them, for an unknown period of time.

Sriram Sankararaman, a computational biologist at UCLA and one of the study's authors, said: 'It's nearly certainly the case that the story is incredibly complex and complicated and we have kind of these initial hints about the complexity'. Hominid ghosts According to UCLA geneticists Arun Durvasula and Sriram Sankararaman, these extinct species of Homo sapiens were able to transmit their genes to the African ancestors of the current Yoruba and Mende from approximately 24,000 years or more.

By employing statistical techniques, the researchers looked for markers of interbreeding that may have occurred in the distant past - turns out it did.

We don't know how these human relatives looked like or how they lived, but their genes paint a compelling story of complex interactions with our ancestors.

The researchers studied the genome maps of West African ethnic population hailing from three countries, namely Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and the Gambia.

Further tests show that they can represent up to 19% of the genetic ancestry found in the genomes. The estimates also say that a population of about 20,000 individuals bred with ancestors of modern West Africans some 1,24,000 years back.

"It's very likely that the true picture is much more complicated", Sankararaman told the Guardian. One possibility is that west Africans retained the DNA because it helped them to survive and breed.

Commenting on the new findings, John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the study, said, "It is always interesting and useful to see researchers applying new methods to try to get a better idea of what ancient populations might have been like".

We have a lot to learn about our ancient ancestors. "I think we're going to find more and more of these "ghost" populations coming up".

The unknown group "appears to have split off from the ancestors of modern humans a little before when Neanderthals split off from our ancestors", he says. The fossil record in Africa offers only a few hints.

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