DNA offers fresh look at humanity’s roots [2016/10/05 11:47]

Modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. But how did humans go on to populate the rest of the globe?

Three human genome studies recently published in Nature provide new clues as to when Homo sapiens, our earliest anatomically modern human ancestors, first left Africa.

After analyzing the DNA of 800 people from more than 270 populations, the researchers found genetic evidence for a migration of humans out of Africa about 100,000 years ago.

But that earlier migration largely failed. The populations died out within a few generations.

Examining their data separately, all three groups came to the same conclusion: All non-Africans descend from a single migration of early humans from Africa. The estimates from the studies point to an exodus somewhere between 80,000 and 50,000 years.

In other words, DNA and fossil evidence suggest that there were multiple migrations from Africa.

One of the studies, led a team at Cambridge University, provides the most in-depth genomic analysis of native Australians ever published.

The data backs up something the indigenous peoples already knew: Aboriginal people appear to be the oldest living civilization on the planet outside of Africa. After an exodus some 72,000 years ago, they split away from the larger genetic group 58,000 years ago and arrived on the Australian continent around 8,000 years later.

“Human history is this really fascinating and complex puzzle, and genetics can tell us about some of the pieces,” said Joshua Akey, a professor at the University of Washington who was not involved in the studies. But given genetic limitations, “it’s really important to integrate information from as many other disciplines as possible.”
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