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Biggest genetic ‘family tree’ for humanity developed by scientists

‘Humans are all ultimately related to each other’

Gino Spocchia
Monday 07 March 2022 18:48
<p>Oxford University were behind the study into historic genomes </p>

Oxford University were behind the study into historic genomes

Scientists have been able to map out humanity’s entire “family tree” and more than 2 million years of human development, in what is thought to be among the biggest pieces of research of its kind.

Researchers from the University of Oxford spent two decades tracing human DNA back to its northeast African origins with the information from both “modern” and “ancient” genomes.

The aim, according to Oxford’s Gill McVean, was to show humanity’s entire “family tree” from the beginnings of Homo sapiens in the Horn of Africa to modern day humans.

As many as 7190 complete genomes were included in the research led by Mr McVean and his Oxford university team, with half from “ancient samples”. It was published in Science, the academic journal, last month.

Using the huge “family tree”, researchers were then able to link decedents and variants in human DNA, as well as the migratory patterns of Homo sapiens out of Africa more than 2 million years ago.

Genomes, an organisms’ full DNA, contain information about inherited disorders and the influence of diseases as well as migration patterns or movements of a species.

The Oxford study found that pockets of humanity developed across Africa almost simultaneously about 2 million years ago, with evidence from DNA showing that Papua New Guinea and the Americas also witnessed some of the earliest human development.

As New Scientist reported last month, that was tens of thousands of years earlier than archaeologists believe humans found their way out of the Horn of Africa.

“Humans are all ultimately related to each other,” said Mr McVean, a professor of statistical genetics. “What I’ve long wanted to do is to be able to represent the totality of what we can learn about human history through this genealogy.”

Similar studies have identified Homo sapiens emerging in multiple parts of Africa, although archaeologists are still to confirm the work of DNA researchers, or genealogists.

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