We often believe that the modern human is unique in all ways, but a new study published in the journal Science Advances finds that such a statement is far from the truth. Instead, most of the genes that can be found in our species are present in Neanderthals, Denisovans, as well as in other ancestors.
Insider reveals that according to the new study, only 1.5% to 7% of the human genome is truly unique to our species. Even so, the genes that are unique to humans are also involved in brain development.
We’re still uniquely human, but only according to some regions of the genome
Richard Green, who’s co-author of the new study and director of the paleogenomics lab from the University of California, Santa Cruz, declared for Insider:
The evolutionary family tree shows there are regions of our genome that make us uniquely human,
Now we have a catalog of those, and it’s a surprisingly small fraction of the genome.
Our ancestors interacted and interbred, thus exchanging genes that impacted our species’ evolution. The new findings emphasize how often the intermingling occurred in the last few hundreds of thousands of years.
For constructing a hominin family tree, the scientists sequenced and compared genomes belonging to 279 modern humans from various parts of the world to genomes from two Neanderthals and one Denisovan. By further using a computer algorithm, researchers determined how those individuals are related to each other.
The study also found that there are genes inherited by humans from an ancestor that lived about 500,000 years ago and that was linked to not only our species, but also to Neanderthals and other human ancestors.
According to YourGenome.org, modern humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and the most likely recent ancestor is Homo erectus.