Using human genomes, researchers have developed a massive family tree identifying nearly 27 million ancestors dating back more than 100,000 years ago. A unified genealogy of modern and ancient genomes. A visualization showing the inferred human ancestral lineages over time and geographical location. Each line represents an ancestral relationship; the line’s width shows the frequency of the relationship. Color indicates the estimated age of the ancestor. Credit: Oxford University Big Data Institute

Society The World25. March 2024

Here’s the World’s Largest Family Tree Ever Made!

An international team of scientists has created the world’s largest human family tree from modern and ancient genomes, dating our ancestors to a million years ago and identifying when and where they once lived.

“As the quality of genome sequences from modern and ancient DNA samples improves, the trees will become even more accurate, and we will eventually be able to generate a single, unified map that explains the descent of all the human genetic variation we see today,” explains Yan Wong, one of the study ‘s principal authors and an evolutionary geneticist at Big Data Institute of University of Oxford.

Producing a massive unifying family tree required 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations, including ancient genomes from samples dating from more than 100,000 years ago, allowing the identification of nearly 27 million ancestors. The very earliest ancestors came from modern Sudan, and they lived up to and over 1 million years ago, much older than current estimates of Homo Sapiens, whose age is between 250,000 and 300,000 years ago. Modern humans inherited bits of a genome from unrecognizable individuals. It is suggested that the Americas were populated 56,000 years ago, not 20,000 as initially suspected. Human ancestors could have inhabited Oceania – specifically Papua New Guinea – some 140,000 years ago. The study helps show the scope of human genetic diversity and establish how people are related. This new genealogical mapping technique could be helpful in fields like medical genetics as the method is valid for most living things, from orangutans to bacteria.

Smithsonian Magazine

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