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Planet Earth

Human origins in 2011

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanDecember 20, 2011 11:14 PM

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Interesting piece in LiveScience, What We Learned About Our Human Ancestors in 2011. The author highlights the likelihood of a lot of admixture across very diverged lineages, as well as the nascent "Out of Arabia" hypothesis. This quote from Michael Hammer gets at where we're "going next":

"We've probably just scratched the surface of what we might find," Hammer added. "We only looked at a small number of regions of the genome. This coming year, you'll see a lot of progress made with full genome data. This year, we should be able to confirm what we found and go way beyond that."

I think the the lowest hanging fruit in terms of "paradigm shift" was the renewed opening to admixture with "archaic" lineages in 2010 and 2011. Before that point it was reasonable for anyone to respond to these hypotheses with a recitation of the "Out of Africa" orthodoxy. Now no longer. If admixture did no occur, then we're talking about strange results which still need explaining with a novel model (e.g., lots of "structure" in the "Out of Africa" population due to admixture within Africa). But as the low hanging fruit is picked, researchers are now going to spread themselves out throughout the grove, hunting for numerous odds and ends. In all likelihood the picture is going to get complex, but hopefully it will be more accurate.

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