Researchers suggest DNA from this group makes up between 2% and 19% of modern West Africans’ genetic ancestry.
They believe the interbreeding occurred about 43,000 years ago.
Scientists found links to the Mende people of Sierra Leone, Yoruba as well as Esan people in Nigeria, plus other groups in western areas of The Gambia.
It suggests that ancestors of modern West Africans interbred with a yet-undiscovered species of archaic human, similar to how ancient Europeans mated with Neanderthals, and Oceanic populations with Denisovans.
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The research sheds more light on how archaic hominins added to the genetic variation of present-day Africans, which has been poorly understood even though it is the most genetically diverse continent.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago there were several different groups of humans including modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans.