Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend Stay on target The prevailing thought for decades was that humans descending from Neanderthals more or less directly. Some thought we may be close cousins, but that’s about as intimate as anyone thought we got for some time. The more we started digging though, the more (and weirder) mysteries we discover lying between us and some of our nearest kin, and a team of researchers has just made the most startling (and bizarre) discovery yet.The group sequenced DNA from the remains of a Neanderthal who lived some 100,000 years ago and compared it that of modern humans. They discovered that some ancient human woman part of the lineage that ultimately birthed homo sapiens mated with a Neanderthal male more than 120,000 years earlier. This is especially weird because that’s well before we thought that our ancestors came into contact with Neanderthals.All this comes from a special kind of genetic information only passed down through the mother — mitochondrial DNA. While the sperm and egg each carry half the chromosomes needed to make life a thing, every cell of any decently complex organism has another bit of DNA in their mitochondria — tiny pseudo-cells that serve as the power plants for their host. Because only eggs have mitochondria though, only the mother’s mtDNA gets passed down. This makes it particularly useful for evolutionary biology, because you can compare the development and changes of that genetic information, with that stored in the rest of the cell.For some time, researchers have been perplexed by the fact that Neanderthals and humans share a lot of the same genetic markers — especially in the mtDNA. This could explain it.“Her children spread her genetic legacy through the Neanderthal lineage,” reads Science Magazine. “In time her African mtDNA completely replaced the ancestral Neanderthal mtDNA.”This is a huge discovery, and shows that humans and our European-based cousins never really stopped intermingling. The two lines are thought to have diverged almost 500,000 years ago, and, over the millennia, we just couldn’t stay apart. I really can’t tell if this is cute or weird. On the one hand, it’s humans mating with not-quite-humans, but then we are (or were, at least) both intellectually capable species, presumably with the ability to make our own choices. And we clearly weren’t so genetically distant that we couldn’t have perfectly healthy and normal kids. But… this is still weird, right? No? Maybe? Damn. Evolution is just… weird.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.