Oxon scientists generate largest human family tree ever

For decades, evolutionary biologists have done research to learn more about the genetic and physical relationship between the humans that live on Earth today and those that lived millions of years ago.
From the time that the process of genomic generation was developed in 1986, thousands of human genomes have been generated in order to learn more about these relationships.
The recent publication in the journal Science titled, “A unified genealogy of modern and ancient genomes,” outlined the conclusions that were drawn from a study completed by a research team at the University of Oxford Big Data Institute led by Anthony Wilder Wohns.
One of the outcomes of the study done by Wohns et al. was the successful application of a tree recording method to ancient and modern human human genomes, as a way of computationally generating a unified human genealogy.
By completing the genome generation through this manner, they were able to use ancient genomes to calibrate the genomic coalescent times.
Learning more about whether or not genetic variation matched in modern humans and ancient human relatives, these researchers were able to draw the theoretical lines of descent between different genomes and were able to determine which alleles present in today’s human genomes were carried by human ancestors.
In ScienceDaily, the authors spoke about the integration of data on genomes that come from modern and ancient humans.
It was reported in this article that this study included 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations, and genomes that came from ancient humans range from 1,000 to 100,000 years ago.
The first author of this article, Wohns, spoke with a journalist from Live Science about the way that this research can explain the relationship between today’s humans and ancient human relatives.
“The way that we’ve estimated where ancestors live is, in particular, very preliminarywe definitely see overwhelming evidence of the out-of-Africa event,” Wohns said.
The out-of-Africa event mentioned in his quote was the initial dispersal of Homo sapiens from the eastern region of Africa into Eurasia and other regions around the world.
According to The New York Post, the research team was able to successfully create a phylogenetic tree, linking 27 million humans to this out-of-Africa event.
Ron Mumme, Allegheny professor of biology, spoke about how the information documented can be used as further support for the out-of-Africa model.
“It was pretty much what we expected, what we already knew from other studies that mentioned that modern humans arose and started to move out of Africa and colonize the rest of the world,” Mumme said.
Aida Andrés, associate professor in the Genetics, Evolution and Environment Department at the University College London Genetics Institute, and Jasmin Rees, a doctoral candidate at UCL Genetics Institute spoke about how the research could be used in the future in a commentary published in Science.
They mentioned that the method used in the research “works well to refine known ancestral locations and, as sampling improves it has the potential to identify currently unknown human movements.”
In the online newspaper, ScienceDaily, it was mentioned that the research group at the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute made major progress in mapping out the entirety of the genetic relationships between humans today and our ancestors, which shows that there is a single genealogy that traces the ancestry of all living humans.
Evolutionary geneticist at the Big Data Institute and one of the principal authors of the paper, Yan Wong, talked about the research, and what the outcome of the research was.
“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,” Wong said. “This genealogy allows us to see how every person’s genetic sequence relates to each other, along all the points of the genome.” Wong also spoke more about how this information can be used in the past in an interview with ScienceDaily.
“While humans are the focus of this study, the method is valid for most living things; from orangutans to bacteria,” Wong said. “It could be particularly beneficial in medical genetics, in separating true associations between genetic regions and diseases from spurious connections arising from our shared ancestral history.”
While there is more evidence to support the out-of-Africa hypothesis, it is still debated.
“There’s still a lot of disagreement with the peopling of the Americas,” Mumme said. “Whether people were coming across the Bering land bridge or seafaring.”
There may be a lot of information surrounding the Out-of-Africa model, but there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in order to understand the origin of Homo sapiens in the Americas.