Artificial Intelligence Finds Ancient ‘Ghosts’ in Modern DNA

Washington, DC - March, 15: The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is about to open its' new Hall of Human Origins, March 15, 2010 in Washington, DC. Pictured, a row of skulls ending with homo sapiens, foreground. One of the more than 75 skulls on display. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images) StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Mon Mar 15 14:55:03 2010 The exhibit hall includes more than 75 skulls, including two on loan from the Musee de l'Homme in France: The only Neanderthal skeleton in the United States and the original Cro-Magnon skull, discovered in 1868 in a French cave of the same name. The display shown here features an array of skulls culminating with a Homo sapiens.

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Artificial intelligence is helping paleontologists and anthropologists reconstruct the complex patterns of interbreeding among archaic populations that led to the modern human race.

Could deep learning help paleontologists and geneticists hunt for ghosts?

When modern humans first migrated out of Africa 70,000 years ago, at least two related species, now extinct, were already waiting for them on the Eurasian landmass. These were the Neanderthals and Denisovans, archaic humans who interbred with those early moderns, leaving bits of their DNA behind today in the genomes of people of non-African descent.

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