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Europe is one big family

Continent shares common ancestry about 30 generations ago

By
2:30pm, May 8, 2013

The branches of Europe’s family tree converge remarkably recently in the continent’s history — around the time of the Norman conquest and the Vikings’ transatlantic voyages.

Virtually every person living in Europe today shares a common set of ancestors that lived about 1,000 years ago, Peter Ralph and Graham Coop of the University of California, Davis report May 7 in PLOS Biology.

“What’s really surprising is just how closely related Europeans — and likely all people in the world — are,” Coop says.

In the past, mathematical analyses have concluded that everyone on the globe shares not just a single ancestor, but a complete set of ancestors who lived about 3,000 years ago. In other words, all of the people living then who have modern descendants are ancestors of everyone living today.

Ralph and Coop set out to test this idea using genetic data. Previously, researchers relied on specific

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