Two hundred thousand years ago, the earliest shared ancestors of every living human on Earth rested their feet at a verdant oasis in the middle of Africa's Kalahari Desert.
Here, in a patchwork of now-extinct lakes, forests and grasslands known as the Makgadikgadi paleowetland, our greatest grandmothers and -grandfathers hunted, gathered and raised families for tens of thousands of years. Eventually, as Earth's climate changed, shifts in rainfall opened up fertile new paths through the desert. For the first time, our distant relatives had the chance to explore the unknown, putting behind them what a team of researchers now calls "the ancestral homeland of all humans alive today."
Story - Paper - Today - Oct - Nature
That's the story, anyway, told by a new paper published today (Oct. 18) in the journal Nature.
By studying the genomes of more than 1,200 indigenous Africans living in the southern part of the continent today, the team pieced together a history of one of the oldest DNA lineages on Earth: a collection of genes called L0, which is passed down maternally through mitochondria and has survived remarkably unchanged in some populations for hundreds of thousands of years. By tracking where and when the L0 lineage first split into the slightly different sublineages still seen in some indigenous African populations today, the researchers believe they have pinpointed precisely where the first carriers of L0 lived and thrived for thousands of years.
Time - Humans - Africa - Years - Study
"We've known for a long time that humans originated in Africa and roughly 200,000 years ago," study author Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney, both in Australia, said in a news conference. "But what we hadn't known until this study was where, exactly this homeland was."
Furthermore, he added, because the present study follows only one sequence of maternally inherited genetic code, its findings may not...
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