A new genetic study suggests all modern humans trace our ancestry to a single spot in southern Africa 200,000 years ago. But experts say the study, which analyzes the DNA of living people, is not nearly comprehensive enough to pinpoint where our species arose.
“I’m persuaded that southern Africa was an important area for human evolution,” says population geneticist Aylwyn Scally of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom who was not involved with the work. But, he says, studies of living people’s DNA can’t reveal the precise location of our ancestors. “It would be astonishing if all our genetic ancestry at this time arose in one small homeland.”
Confirming earlier studies, the data reveal that one mtDNA lineage in the Khoisan speakers—L0—is the oldest known mtDNA lineage in living people. The work also tightens the date of origin of L0 to about 200,000 years ago (with a range of error of 165,000 to 240,000; previous studies had a range of error from 150,000 to 250,000), the team reports today in Nature. Because today this lineage is found only in people in southern Africa, people carrying the L0 lineage lived in southern Africa and formed the ancestral population for all living humans, says lead author Vanessa Hayes, a genomicist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney in Australia..