We are all African is a saying you’ve probably heard before. It might actually be true, according to a recent study from the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford. They used the genetic ties between people to create the broadest human family tree ever and found that humanity originated in what is now the modern-day Sudan. The study was conducted back in February of this year, and it is undoubtedly very fascinating for learning about the genesis of humanity as well as how long human history has actually been going on.
How It Was Done
Modern and genomic data from eight distinct databases were integrated by the research team. They claim that just one of our parents, and not both, pass on specific genetic areas to us. Every location on the genome is referred to as a “tree,” and each tree has its own “tree sequence.” Then, they were able to trace genomic regions back to their distant relatives, all the way to the time and place at which genetic diversity originally appeared.
“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,” said Dr. Yan Wong. “This genealogy allows us to see how every person’s genetic sequence relates to every other, along all the points of the genome.” Lead author Dr. Anthony Wilder Whons concurred, stating that it was essentially the biggest human genome mapping project ever. 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations provided the researchers with the data.
“Essentially, we are reconstructing the genomes of our ancestors and using them to form a vast network of relationships,” he said. “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.”
More Time Than We Thought Has Passed Since the Origin of Humans
As was already established, the research team discovered that the progenitors of every living person today, the original human species, originated in what is now the contemporary Sudan. The fact that these were our ancestors’ lives was perhaps the news that was most surprising. The scientists discovered that this particular type of people existed in what is now Sudan up to, and possibly even more than, one million years ago.
That is significantly older than the homo sapiens fossil record, which only dates back between 250,000 and 300,000 years.
A Potent Strategy
The researchers’ thorough methodology enabled them to examine both ancient and modern genomes. This led to the creation of a network of about 27 million ancestors. That is a very amazing accomplishment.
“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,” said Dr. Whon.
These People Weren’t Like People Today
As you can expect, our forefathers were very different from who we are today. They were a completely separate species of human who did nothing more than trigger the evolution of homo sapiens and ultimately modern humans.
These have uses beyond just helping us learn about and comprehend human origins. This information will improve our understanding of human geology, and the new approach might be useful in other fields of study, like medicine.” Dr. Whon cites one application where the underlying methodology can be useful: finding genetic indicators of illness risk. From there, we may create more specialized preventative plans for those who are at risk for one disease and another. This approach has the potential to save a lot of lives in the future.