Home LATEST NEWS The most comprehensive human family tree ever created

The most comprehensive human family tree ever created


Since the announcement of the sequencing of the human genome in 2000, millions of individual sequences, including those of thousands of prehistoric humans, have been carried out.

Modern and ancient genomes are invaluable tools that have greatly improved our understanding of human evolution and the long history of populations on Earth.say in a press release the authors, whose work is published in the journal ScienceHave (New window)Have (in English).

This mountain of data somehow contains the history of theHomo sapiens. However, it is difficult for scientists to paint a complete picture of the genealogy of the species because of the different methods of obtaining these data, their variable quality and the inherent limits of their analyses, in particular theDeoxyribonucleic acid old.

Visualization of human ancestral lines in time and space. Enlarge imageHave (New window)Have

Visualization of human ancestral lines in time and space. Each line represents an ancestor-descendant relationship in the genealogy of modern and ancient genomes. The width of a line corresponds to the number of times the relationship is observed, and the lines are colored according to the estimated age of the ancestor.

Photo: Big Data Institute at Oxford University

A considerable technical challenge

Population geneticist Anthony Wohns and his colleagues at Big Data Institute from the University of Oxford, UK, claim to have succeeded. They created the most accurate human family tree to date from over 3,600 high-quality modern and ancient genomes from over 215 different human populations.

In this large sample, they identified 6,412,717 variants. It is small genetic differences between individuals that make it possible to connect each of them and to identify the time and place of their emergence. To refine this analysis, the researchers also relied on the examination of 3589 other old genomes of lesser quality which were not however found in the family tree.

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These ancient genomes, three of which were from Neanderthals and one from Denisovan, included samples ranging in age from several thousand years to over 100,000 years. Algorithms predicted where common ancestors were in theevolution tree to explain patterns of genetic variation.

The tree structure obtained tells the story of humanity over 2 million years: it contains no less than 27 million ancestors and its branches include 231 million ancestral lines linking genomes in time.

We basically built a huge family tree, a human genealogy. […] This genealogy allows us to see how the genetic sequence of each person is linked to all the others, at all points of the genome. »

A quote from Yan Wong, evolutionary geneticist at the Big Data Institute

In addition, the researchers explain that their work provides a chronological and geographical portrait of major events in human history, including migration out of Africa.

To the tree of trees

This work represents an important step towards cartography of all genetic relationships between humans. Researchers believe that it may one day be possible to trace the ancestry of each of us.

As individual genomic regions are inherited from only one parent, either the mother or the father, the ancestry of each point in the genome can be considered as a tree. The calculation of all these trees, called an ancestral recombination graph, makes it possible to link the genetic regions over time and to trace back to the ancestors where the genetic variation first appeared.explain the researchers.

We are essentially reconstructing the genomes of our ancestors and using them to form a vast web 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 modern and ancient DNA samples. »

A quote from Anthony Wilder Wohns

This study lays the groundwork for next-generation sequencing of theDeoxyribonucleic acid. As the quality of genomic sequences from samples fromDeoxyribonucleic acid modern and old will improve, trees will become even more accurate. We will then be able to generate a single, unified map that explains the origin of all the human genetic variations that we observe today, concludes Professor Yan Wong.

The power and resolution of ancestral tree recombination techniques promise to help clarify the evolutionary history of humans and other specieswrite researchers Jasmin Rees and Aida Andrés in a review article accompanying the study. It is likely that the most powerful means of inferring evolutionary history in the future will have their foundations firmly established in these methods.they continue.

The technique is also valid for most living species, from orangutans to bacteria. In addition, it could possibly be used in the field of medical research, for example by identifying genetic predictors of the risk of a disease.

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