Charles Darwin's ancient ancestors were among the first group of Homo sapiens to leave Africa, a DNA analysis has revealed.
His forebears, Cro-Magnon men, left Africa about 45,000 years ago, heading to the Middle East and Central Asia, then migrated to Europe about 10,000 years later. There, they clashed with the Neanderthals, driving them to extinction. During the last Ice Age they retreated to Spain before moving north again about 12,000 years ago.
Darwin's ancient family history was revealed by DNA tests on his great-great-grandson, Chris, who lives in the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney.
Chris Darwin's Y chromosome was analysed as part of the Genographic Project, which is tracking the migratory history of humans. It shows he belongs to a male lineage called Haplogroup R1b.
Mr Darwin, 48, who emigrated to Australia in 1986, said yesterday that he had been intrigued to discover that his ancestors had been in one of the first groups of H. sapiens to leave Africa.
"I have always clung to the hope that I had inherited Charles Darwin's adventurous ability, his wish to go over the hill and see what's on the other side. From what I hear of my background, it sounds like we like looking over the tops of hills." Mr Darwin has already demonstrated his intrepid spirit, windsurfing around Britain and hosting the "World's Highest Dinner Party" at 2,200 feet, on the summit of Peru's highest mountain, Huascaran – an event marred only by the red wine freezing and two guests suffering hypothermia.
The Genographic Project, a joint initiative of National Geographic magazine and IBM, has analysed more than 350,000 DNA samples.