If today's romantic landscape seems like a barren wasteland of mating prospects, here's a little perspective for you. Recent DNA analysis of ancient humans reveals that early humans had sex with non humans. And we're not talking bestiality – give our ancient ancestors some credit. Scientists say early human sex was with a "ghost species." Unfortunately, this doesn't mean they were getting it on with spectral beings from another realm; in reality, scholars just don't quite know who or what this other species was.
Omer Gokcumen, a biologist at the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, accidentally discovered this ancient human sex connection when studying the saliva of sub-Saharan people. Turns out swabbing spit and swapping spit are both insightful scientific endeavors. This discovery is intriguing not only because it means there are human-ish species out there not yet discovered, but also because it means early hominins (our homo sapien ancestors) were likely much more sexually adventurous than we've given them credit for.
Take comfort modern single folk, "ghosting" meant something entirely different for our ancient human ancestors.
The Secrets Of Our Ancient Ancestors Spit-Swapping Lies In, Well, Spit
Scientists discovered this ancient human-ghost love affair when studying a particular protein in saliva. Namely, the MUC7 protein, which accounts for the sticky quality of spit and aids in keeping humans healthy. When testing different kinds of saliva from around the globe, they found that sub-Saharans had a wildly different form of the protein in their spit.
Which means only people from parts of Africa below the Sahara get to claim a ghost hominin as a distant relative. Should make for a lively conversation at the next holiday gathering.
Ghost Sex Isn't The Supernatural Experience It Sounds Like
These so-called ghosts scientists claim early humans got busy with aren't the spooky spectrals that immediately come to mind. Instead, a ghost species is what scientists call any species they haven't yet identified with existing fossils. In this case, the saliva anomaly found in sub-Saharan humans points to what's called an "archaic introgression." This is just a fancy term for cross-breeding among hominins – the species modern homo sapiens (you and me) belong to.
Essentially, a lonely cave gal saw a human-looking dude and said, "Close enough. Let's evolve, hot stuff."
Ancient Humans Were Sexually Open-Minded
While evidence of this new ghost species is a huge breakthrough, this isn't the first time the human genome has given us a peek into the hominin bedroom. Denisovans, an early human from around 41,000 years ago, were discovered using just a few bone fragments and tiny traces of common DNA found in modern Asians. Melanesians have a few unique genetic traits that suggest another as-yet-unidentified hominin got down and dirty with Southeast Asian ancestors long ago, as well.