How can genetics clue us in to ancient migrations?
Researchers use genetics to tell us more about the ancient migration out of Africa.
Vocabulary: genetics, mutations, genetic diversity
Scientists have long known that humans originated in Africa. From there, our species migrated to Europe and Asia, but the details of that journey are less clear. This week in the journal Nature, three groups of researchers filled in a small piece of that puzzle. Annalee Newitz, the tech culture editor at arstechnica.com, describes the genetic clues that point to a single migration out of the continent.
- What was the primary finding of the three studies described in this interview?
- Why do you think it was important to focus on Africans and Australian Aborigines? What clues might these populations hold that are not found in Europe and Asia?
- Scientists cannot use genomes alone to reconstruct ancient migrations. What other disciplines and information were used to develop their conclusions?
- Use this activity to explore how scientists use genetic markers to reconstruct human migratory routes. Compare the findings from the paper featured in the interview to this map from National Geographic’s Genographic Project.
- Check out this article from Ars Technica about the role of mutation in tracking human migrations.
- Check out the original paper, “Distance from sub-Saharan Africa predicts mutational load in diverse human genomes.”