A recent study has shown that an ethnic group situated in the southeast Asian country of the Philippines exhibits Denisovan ancestry. The Denisovan is a group of archaic humans first identified from a single bone in a Siberian cave. Earlier, studies have shown that the Denisovans co-existed with modern humans and other archaic human species, such as Neanderthals, for hundreds of thousands of years, until they went extinct an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 years ago.
Published in Current Biology journal, the research included over 40 authors and was published on August 12. In their study, the international team of scientists has mentioned that they have found evidence that shows how modern humans interbred with archaic Denisovans. The research details an account of shared demographic history between Australasians and Denisovans distinctively in the island nation of the Philippines.
The research was aimed at finding how the modern-day Philippines was first populated by ancient human beings. The study has revealed that the Negritos came into contact with the Denisovans, who were already living there, and that there was interbreeding between the two groups. As a result, the present-day ethnic population of Ayta Magbukon has a high level of Denisovan ancestry in their genome.
Scientists analysed 2.3 million genotypes from 118 ethnic groups of the Philippines, including 25 diverse self-identified Negrito populations, along with high-coverage genomes of Australia Papuans and Ayta Magbukon Negritos for the study. Researchers also collaborated with cultural institutions, and several local universities and indigenous peoples’ organisations in the Philippines for the study. Their analysis showed that the Ayta Magbukon possess the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world which is 30%–40% greater than that of Australians and Papuans. The Ayta Magbukon genes are also consistent with an independent admixture event into Negritos from Denisovans.
Researchers placed their study in the context of a 2019 discovery of a small human relative called Homo luzonensis. This provided them with the results indicating that several archaic ethnic groups inhabited the Philippines before the arrival of Homo sapiens, the modern-day human species and that the various groups may have been genetically related.