"This estimate does not preclude the presence of other populations of Homo sapiens sapiens [modern humans] in Africa, although it suggests that they were probably isolated from one another genetically, and that contemporary worldwide populations descend from one or very few of those populations," said Marcus W. Feldman, the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor at Stanford and co-author of the study.
The small size of our ancestral population may explain why there is so little genetic variability in human DNA compared with that of chimpanzees and other closely related species, Feldman added.
The study, published in the May edition of the journal, is based on research conducted in Feldman`s Stanford laboratory in collaboration with co-authors Lev A. Zhivotovsky of the Russian Academy and former Stanford graduate student Noah A. Rosenberg, now at the University of Southern California.
"Our results are consistent with the `out-of-Africa` theory, according to which a sub-Saharan African ancestral population gave rise to all populations of anatomically modern humans through a chain of migrations to the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Oceania and America," Feldman noted.
Since all human beings have virtually identical DNA, geneticists have to look for slight chemical variations that distinguish one population from another. One technique involves the use of "microsatellites" - short repetitive fragments of DNA whose patterns of variation differ among populations. Because microsatellites are passed from genera
Contact: Mark Shwartz