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Humans evolved in small groups across diverse environments in Africa

July 11 (UPI) – New research has offered an unprecedented vision of early human evolution in Africa.

The study, which combines fossil studies, genetic analyzes and climate models, suggests that early humans evolved into isolated semi-groups – not as a large, cohesive population, as some assumed.

The ecological diversity found throughout Africa explains the fragmented nature of early human evolution, researchers say. Both the genetic signatures and the distribution of artifacts reflect a lack of connectivity between the first human populations.

"We see evidence of a very deep reduced connectivity in the past, some very old genetic lineages and levels of general diversity that a single population struggle to maintain," said Mark Thomas, a geneticist at University College London, in a press release. .

Interestingly, genetic patterns among other species of sub-Saharan animals reflect similar types of fragmentation. The researchers believe that the dynamic nature of the African landscape explains the phenomenon.

In addition to housing a diversity of ecosystems, arid and semi-arid regions bordering dense rainforests, mountains and valleys, interlocking networks of lakes and rivers – Africa's climate has changed regularly over the past several million years.

As a result of these climatic and ecological dynamics, the first humans experienced cycles of isolation and adaptation followed by a genetic and cultural mix, according to scientists.

"The converging evidence from these different fields emphasizes the importance of considering the structure of the population in our models of human evolution," said Lounes Chikhi, a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research. "This complex history of population subdivision should lead us to question current models of changes in the size of the old population, and perhaps reinterpret some of the old bottlenecks as changes in connectivity."

Modern humans did not evolve in one place or originate from a single population, according to the latest findings, published this week in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The history of human evolution, according to the authors of the study, is one of diversity.

"The evolution of human populations in Africa was multiregional, our ancestry was multi-ethnic, and the evolution of our material culture was, well, multicultural," said Eleanor Scerri, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. . "We need to see all the regions of Africa to understand human evolution."


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