Human beings may have made their first journey out of Africa as recently as 70,000 years ago, according to a new study by geneticists from Stanford University and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Writing in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers estimate that the entire population of ancestral humans at the time of the African expansion consisted of only about 2,000 individuals.
"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.
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