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Africans’ genes mute on human birthplace

DNA studies fail to locate root of the species

The origin story for Homo sapiens is a messy tale. Rather than emerging from one small population, the human species likely evolved from a dispersed, complex network of groups that mixed and mated with each other, scientists report online September 20 in Science.

The new research is one of the largest genetic studies of southern Africa’s click-speaking hunter-gatherers known as the Khoisan. Sometimes called Bushmen, the Khoisan are the world’s most genetically diverse people and diverged from other populations very early in human history.

The new work dates the genetic split between the Khoisan and the rest of humankind to at least 100,000 years ago, which is in line with other estimates. That’s 55,000 years older than the next branch on the human family tree, when Central African pygmies split off. The researchers also found that the Khoisan divided into a northern and a southern group approximately 35,000 years ago.  

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