Contemporary Genome Data Indicates That Homo Sapiens Originated in Africa

Homo sapiens, the modern human species, originated in Africa some 300,000 years ago. Between Marrakech and the Atlantic coast of Morocco is a location known as Jebel Irhoud, where the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils were found. But there aren’t many fossils from that era left. The remnants of fossils originate from regions that are vastly separated from one another. While some of them were located in South Africa, others were found in Ethiopia. Because of this, scientists find it challenging to understand how our species evolved and dispersed throughout the African continent. However, a recent study that used genetic data from contemporary African tribes could shed light on how that evolution and diffusion occurred.

The research indicates that over hundreds of thousands of years, numerous ancestral populations traveled across different geographical regions and interbred. Additionally, it was discovered that every living person on the planet can trace their ancestors to at least two distinct populations that lived in Africa approximately a million years ago. These findings contradict a previous theory regarding our species. According to that theory, Homo sapiens either diverged into a different species or evolved in a single location. “All humans share relatively recent common ancestry, but the story in the deeper past is more complicated than our species evolving in just a single location or in isolation,” stated Aaron Ragsdale.

Isolated groupings did not emerge because early groups migrated and interacted. Groups that are separated from one another are more prone to diverge genetically. However, the genetic makeup of the groups remained similar despite their migration and mixing throughout Africa. The genomes of 290 contemporary individuals, primarily drawn from four populations spread throughout various parts of Africa, were examined by scientists. Genetic diversity was also present among the four groupings. Then, by linking these four groups’ genetic variances and similarities across hundreds of thousands of years, the scientists were able to piece together their evolutionary history.

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