Ancient DNA tells tales of humans' migrant history

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Gawdzilla Sama
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Ancient DNA tells tales of humans' migrant history

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:33 pm

Ancient DNA tells tales of humans' migrant history

Date: February 21, 2018

Source: Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Summary: Fueled by advances in analyzing DNA from the bones of ancient humans, scientists have dramatically expanded the number of samples studied -- revealing vast and surprising migrations and genetic mixing of populations in our prehistoric past.
Scientists once could reconstruct humanity's distant past only from the mute testimony of ancient settlements, bones, and artifacts.

No longer. Now there's a powerful new approach for illuminating the world before the dawn of written history -- reading the actual genetic code of our ancient ancestors. Two papers published in the journal Nature on February 21, 2018, more than double the number of ancient humans whose DNA has been analyzed and published to 1,336 individuals -- up from just 10 in 2014.

The new flood of genetic information represents a "coming of age" for the nascent field of ancient DNA, says lead author David Reich, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Harvard Medical School -- and it upends cherished archeological orthodoxy. "When we look at the data, we see surprises again and again and again," says Reich.

Together with his lab's previous work and that of other pioneers of ancient DNA, the Big Picture message is that our prehistoric ancestors were not nearly as homebound as once thought. "There was a view that migration is a very rare process in human evolution," Reich explains. Not so, says the ancient DNA. Actually, Reich says, "the orthodoxy -- the assumption that present-day people are directly descended from the people who always lived in that same area -- is wrong almost everywhere."

Instead, "the view that's emerging -- for which David is an eloquent advocate -- is that human populations are moving and mixing all the time," says John Novembre, a computational biologist at the University of Chicago.
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Re: Ancient DNA tells tales of humans' migrant history

Post by Poodle » Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:54 pm

It's certainly interesting. But it begs several unanswered questions, the main one being how a 90% genetic replacement was achieved in Britain with no mention of a corresponding effect in Europe. Unless they really did breed like rabbits. And did the Stonehenge builders simply go away (to where?) or were they genetically overwhelmed?
One to watch, I think.