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Southern Africa may be home of modern man

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Stanford, Calif. (UPI) Mar 8, 2011
Modern humans may have originated in southern Africa, where hunter-gatherer populations had the greatest genetic diversity, British researchers said Tuesday.

Extensive studies indicate the region was the best location for the origins of modern man, challenging the school of thought that modern humans migrated from eastern Africa, researchers told the BBC. Genetic diversity is an indicator of longevity, the scientists said.

"Africa is inferred to be the continent of origin for all modern human populations," the international team said in its paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "But the details of human prehistory and evolution in Africa remain largely obscure owing to the complex histories of hundreds of distinct populations."

Co-author Brenna Henn, from Stanford University in California said the study reached two main conclusions.

"One is that there is an enormous amount of diversity in African hunter-gatherer populations, even more diversity than there is in agriculturalist populations," she told BBC News. "The other main conclusion was that we looked at patterns of genetic diversity among 27 (modern) African populations, and we saw a decline of diversity that really starts in southern Africa and progresses as you move to northern Africa."

Henn said the study included more extensive data on "hunter-gatherer groups than we have ever had before, but I am cautious about localizing origins from it."

She said populations in southern Africa have the highest genetic diversity of any population, suggesting "this might be the best location for (the origins) of modern humans."

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