The discovery of yet another period of interbreeding between early humans and Neanderthals is adding to the growing sense that sexual encounters among different ancient human species were commonplace throughout their history.
“As more early modern humans and archaic humans are found and sequenced, we’re going to see many more instances of interbreeding,” says Sergi Castellano, a population geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. His team discovered the latest example, which they believe occurred around 100,000 years ago, by analysing traces of Homo sapiens DNA in a Neanderthal genome extracted from a toe bone found in a cave in Siberia.
“There is this joke in the population genetics community—there’s always one more interbreeding event," Castellano says. So before researchers discover the next one, here’s a rundown of the interbreeding episodes that they have already deduced from studies of ancient DNA.