If we go back far enough in our family lines, almost all of us came from somewhere else. It may have been your mother or father; it could have been a distant relative who lived more than twelve thousand years ago, but you’ll ultimately come across someone who left their birthplace in quest of a better life.
Unless, of course, you happen to be a local. According to an ambitious new analysis by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute, it could be the ancestral home of everyone alive today. It’s a spot of desert in the northeast of Sudan, not far from the Nile River, and according to an ambitious new analysis by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute, it could be the ancestral home of everyone alive today.
“We’re basically rebuilding our ancestors’ genomes and utilizing them to build a massive network of links,” said Dr. Anthony Wilder Wohns, lead author of the study published today in Science. “From there, we can approximate when and where their ancestors lived,” Wohns explained. We’re all probably aware of the concept of tracing family trees using DNA and genomes analysis these days — not only is it a commercially accessible connection ender but it’s also been used to solve a number of crimes in recent years.
However, for other scholars, taking it worldwide has long been a goal. Dr. Yan Wong, an evolutionary geneticist, and lead author said, “We’ve effectively generated a vast family tree, a genealogy for all of mankind.” “With this genealogy, we can examine how each person’s DNA sequence links to each other at every position throughout the genome.” The researchers were able to establish a network of about 27 million ancestors using data from eight distinct human genome databases. The samples came not only from present humans but also from ancient individuals who lived thousands to hundreds of thousands of years ago all throughout the planet.
To account for these, cutting-edge algorithms were used to analyze the data for patterns of genetic variation and forecast where shared ancestors would appear in the “family tree.” Wong added, “[The study] mimics as well as we can the past that created all of the genetic variety we detect in people today.” As a consequence, a stunning visual portrayal of humanity’s mobility and migration throughout history emerges. But the researchers aren’t finished yet: when new data becomes available, they plan to continue expanding and enhancing the genealogical map – and because of the effectiveness of their methodology, there’s still room for millions more genomic sequences.
“This research paves the way for the next generation of DNA sequencing,” Wong added. “As the quality of genome sequences from present and ancient DNA samples improves, the trees will become more precise, and we will be able to build a single, unified map that explains the ancestry of all the human genetic variety we observe today,” says the researcher. If that’s not audacious enough, Wohns believes the squad can go even further.
“While our study focuses on people, the approach is applicable to most living things, from orangutans to microorganisms,” he explained. “It might be especially useful in medical genetics, differentiating actual relationships between genomic areas and illnesses from false connections resulting from our common evolutionary past,” says the researcher.