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Genes of Africa's Khoe-San Peoples Give Clues to Human Evolution

THURSDAY Sept. 20, 2012 -- The Khoe-San peoples of southern Africa are descendants of the earliest diversification event in human history, a new study shows.

This event occurred about 100,000 years ago, well before modern humans began migrating out of Africa.

For the study, researchers looked at about 220 people from different regions in southern Africa and analyzed about 2.3 million DNA variants per person. The findings were published online Sept. 20 in the journal Science.

The team of international scientists also found unexpected variance among Khoe-San groups. For example, they estimated that the San populations from northern Namibia and Angola separated from the Khoe and San populations in South Africa perhaps 25,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The major divergences among different groups of people in Africa have important implications and consequences in terms of human evolutionary history, said Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University in Sweden.

The deep structure and patterns of genetic variation suggest a complex population history among groups of people in Africa.

"The human population has been structured for a long time and it is possible that modern humans emerged from a non-homogeneous group," Jakobsson said in a University of the Witwatersrand news release.

More information

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has more about human evolution.

Posted: September 2012


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