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Everybody alive today came from one African country, study says


Tracing humans back to a common ancestor is nothing new and is something that has been done for many years.

But a study from February 2022 may have made a major breakthrough by finding out where that ancestor originates from.

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute ended up mapping out the largest ever human family tree ever by using the genetic relationships among humans.

They did this by combining modern and genomes data from eight different databases.

In a press release, Dr Yan Wong, an evolutionary geneticist at the Big Data Institute, and one of the co-authors of the study, said: “We have basically built a huge family tree, a genealogy for all of humanity that models as exactly as we can the history that generated all the genetic variation we find in humans today.

The study found that everyone alive today came from this one African country. Credit: Firoze Edassery / Alamy Stock Photo
The study found that everyone alive today came from this one African country. Credit: Firoze Edassery / Alamy Stock Photo

“This genealogy allows us to see how every person’s genetic sequence relates to every other, along all the points of the genome.”

The study says that the individual genomic regions are only inherited from one parent, either the mother or the father.

They described each point on the genome as a tree, with a set of trees known as a ‘tree sequence’.

This links genetic regions back through to time to ancestors, which is where the genetic variation first popped up.

Other lead author Dr Anthony Wilder Wohns said: “Essentially, we are reconstructing the genomes of our ancestors and using them to form a vast network of relationships.

“We can then estimate when and where these ancestors lived.

“The power of our approach is that it makes very few assumptions about the underlying data and can also include both modern and ancient DNA samples.”

So from estimates that the researchers came up with, the ancestors apparently lived in Sudan, Africa.

The world's largest family tree was created for the study. Credit: Alan Collins / Alamy Stock Photo
The world’s largest family tree was created for the study. Credit: Alan Collins / Alamy Stock Photo

Dr Wohns told Reuters: “The very earliest ancestors we identify trace back in time to a geographic location that is in modern Sudan.

“These ancestors lived up to and over 1 million years ago—which is much older than current estimates for the age of Homo sapiens—250,000 to 300,000 years ago.

“So bits of our genome have been inherited from individuals who we wouldn’t recognize as modern humans.”

Researchers got the data from 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations.

These samples ranged from 1,000s of years ago to over 100,000 years in the midst of time.



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