Your genetical journey

27 September 2007

When Charles Darwin wrote The Descent of Man, he suggested modern human ancestry to have begun its journey in Africa. Quoting the father of evolution:

“In each great region of the world the living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is, therefore, probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man’s nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere.”

Since then, discovery of fossils as well as researches in genetics and linguistics have come to support the “Out-of-Africa” theory, with postulation of the possible routes of population migration. However due to the complexity of migration pattern, an alternative theory of multiregional human evolution and migration is also present, supported mainly by archaeological finds but without genetical evidence.

Well, it’s good to keep an open mind nonetheless. As my PI pointed out – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The Genographic Project inevitably becomes an item on my cool science-y stuff list. It’s an attempt to encourage public participation in order to elucidate how one’s ancestor travelled and made its way out of Africa through his/her DNA mutations.

No, one will not be able to trace his/her ancestors through this project. It will inform him/her of the haplotype group of which he/she belongs to, all with the help of either the Y-chromosome (for men) or the mitochondrial DNA (for women). With collective information, pattern of immigration will emerge to provide a better understanding of human movement through time.

This is perhaps the right time for such project to take place, when the genetics technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate (have you heard of the Personal Genome Project yet?) and in this global and highly mobile world, more and more people are interested in gaining a better knowledge of their heritage and root.

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