It is not new and has been done for many years to trace humans back to a common ancestor. But in February 2022, a study that identified the origin of that ancestor may have made a significant advance. The biggest human family tree ever was eventually mapped out by researchers from the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford utilizing information about human genetic ties.
The Root of It All
One of the study’s co-authors, evolutionary geneticist Dr. Yan Wong of the Big Data Institute, said in a press release: “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. This genealogy allows us to see how every person’s genetic sequence relates to every other, along all the points of the genome.”
According to the findings, each genetic area may only be passed down from one parent, either the mother or the father. Each location on the genome was characterized as a tree, with a collection of trees known as a “tree sequence.” This traces the origin of the genetic variation in certain regions of the genome back to ancestors. In essence, we are rebuilding the genomes of our ancestors and using them to create a large network of relationships, according to another lead author, Dr. Anthony Wilder Wohns.
According to the experts’ best guesses, the ancestors most likely resided in Sudan, an African country. According to Dr. Wohns, who was speaking to 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.” 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations provided the researchers with the data. These samples ranged in age from a few hundred years ago to more than 100,000 years ago.