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Ancient humans more diverse?

Researchers have delved back further than ever into the genetic history of humans, and found that the ancient population that gave rise to modern humans may have been nearly twice as genetically diverse than humans today, according a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientific reconstruction of a Homo erectusImage: Wikimedia commons, linkurl:Lillyundfreya;http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Homo_erectus.JPG While most studies on the genetics of an

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Researchers have delved back further than ever into the genetic history of humans, and found that the ancient population that gave rise to modern humans may have been nearly twice as genetically diverse than humans today, according a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientific reconstruction of a Homo erectus
Image: Wikimedia commons,
linkurl:Lillyundfreya;http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Homo_erectus.JPG
While most studies on the genetics of ancient humans have focused on the last half million years, this study looks at particularly old areas of the genome, allowing the researchers to look at the more distant past, said molecular geneticist linkurl:Prescott Deininger;http://129.81.225.52/ of the Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans, LA, who was not involved in the research. "This [study] is a little window to look back a little bit further," he said. When examining genetic diversity, scientists often use a measure called the effective population size, which describes...
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