– Everything must have a beginning somewhere at some point in time. It does not matter in which country we live today because, according to scientists, the history of most of our ancestors started in a completely different part of the world.
To trace the beginning of all humanity, scientists created the world’s largest genome reconstruction of our ancestors. Using data from eight different human genome databases, the researchers from the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute created a network of almost 27 million ancestors.
The study integrated data on modern and ancient human genomes from eight databases and included 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations. The ancient genomes included samples found across the world with ages ranging from 1,000s to over 100,000 years.
The algorithms predicted where common ancestors must be present in the evolutionary trees to explain the patterns of genetic variation.
The end result of the study, published in the journal Science reveals the ancestral home of all humans is a spot in the northeast of Sudan not far from the Nile river.
19.4N, 33.7E – the origins of everyone alive today. Image: Google Maps/IFLS
“Essentially, we are reconstructing the genomes of our ancestors and using them to form a vast network of relationships. We can then estimate when and where these ancestors lived.
The power of our approach is that it makes very few assumptions about the underlying data and can also include both modern and ancient DNA samples, ” lead author Dr. Anthony Wilder Wohns, who undertook the research as part of his Ph.D. at the Big Data Institute and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard said.
What results is a fascinating visual representation of the movement and migration of humanity throughout history. “But the researchers aren’t done yet: as more data becomes available, they intend to continue adding to and improving the genealogical map – thanks to their methods’ efficiency, they still have space for millions of extra genome samples,” IFL Science reports.
“This study is laying the groundwork for the next generation of DNA sequencing. 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,” Dr. Yan Wong an evolutionary geneticist at the Big Data Institute, and one of the principal authors explained.
This is, without doubt, an already huge genome project, and the genealogical map is already an extremely rich resource. Still, scientists say it is just the beginning of something even larger.
The research team plans to make it even more comprehensive by continuing to incorporate genetic data as it becomes available. Because tree sequences store data in a highly efficient way, the dataset could easily accommodate millions of additional genomes.