The scene is a dark cave. Inside, a young girl breathes the last breaths of her life, before she dies of unknown causes in an ancient and cruel world. Flash forward 90,000 years, and her remains are finally discovered inside of the cave by a group of scientists looking for Denisovan remains, a group of humanoids that were found in this cave back in 2008.
They were shocked to find, however, that this girl didn’t exactly fit into that category of people.
She shared traits with Neanderthals as well, a group of sub-humans that went extinct around 40,000 years ago. This meant, as crazy as it was, that this girl belonged to both the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.
These scientists were looking at the first real, concrete proof that interspecies breeding had actually taken place.
Mating like this had been suspected for years, “But I never thought we would be so lucky as to find an actual offspring of the two groups,” says Dr Viviane Slon, one of the researchers behind the discovery at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology told the Independent on Wednesday.
You may be asking yourself, “Yeah cool, old people banged, so what. Why should I care?” Well, dear reader, since they found this evidence, it would lead one to believe that there must have been more, as Professor Chris Stringer told the Independent.“
To find an actual hybrid of such a mating in a still sparse fossil record must surely indicate that these mating’s could not have been rare events, at least when the populations met each other, under whatever circumstances,” said Stringer, an expert in human origins based at the Natural History Museum, who was not at all involved in the research.
This means that, yes, potentially you, reading this right now, could have Neanderthal blood pumping through your veins… right now.
Now, before you go running around screaming, “NO, not me! There isn’t any subhuman blood in these veins!” Let me reassure you a little bit. First off, the likelihood that you possess any Neanderthal DNA is extremely slim.
According to the Genetics Home Reference, the percentage of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans is zero or very close to zero in people from African populations,, and is about 1 to 2 percent in people of European or Asian background. So, that weeds out at least 98 percent of all humans.
Secondly, the majority of that DNA would have been improved upon due to evolution (and if you don’t believe in evolution, why are you reading this article?), over the 40,000 years since the last Neanderthal died.
And finally, even if, somehow, you had any Neanderthal DNA in your blood, you would never even actually know. So, don’t sweat it.
Instead, marvel at the fact that somehow us, the human race today, can be so racist and bigoted towards other members of the same species while 90,000 years ago we were able to get over the whole species thing enough to have sex and raise a child.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr.