Extinct 'humans' may live on in us.
Scientists who re-examined 30,000-year-old fossil bones from a cave in Romania found they had both early modern human and Neanderthal char acteristics.
The find suggests that the two types of human interbred to produce hybrids with mixed features, the researchers claim.
If correct, it would mean modern humans did not wholly replace Neanderthals or drive them to extinction, as many experts believe.
Instead, the two groups may have mingled genes, with the result that Neanderthal blood could linger to this day in Europeans.
Neanderthals were already long-established in Europe when early modern humans arrived from Africa.
But by 20,000 years ago, after co-existing for 10,000-15,000 years, the Neanderthals had all vanished.
DNA evidence has indicated that the two were distinct subspecies. Both used tools, but those of early modern humans were much more sophisticated.
Neanderthals were heavily built and muscular, with projecting faces, large teeth, low foreheads, heavy brow ridges, and chinless jaws. In contrast, modern humans had high foreheads, small brow ridges, and pronounced chins.