An investigation could rewrite part of the theory of human evolution

The new hypothesis indicates that the species progressed in dispersed and isolated populations from the extreme south to the coasts of North Africa, and not from a single and concentrated population.

A group of researchers from the University of Oxford determined that the human species evolved at first in dispersed and isolated populations in Africa, contradicting the usual narrative.

The extended theory defends that "Homo sapiens" progressed from a single ancestral population in a region of Africa about 300,000 years ago.

However, the team led by the University of Oxford scientist Eleanor Scerri concluded that the first humans understood a pan-African meta-population "subdivided, changing and with physical and cultural diversity".

"This fits with a subdivided population model in which genetic exchanges are not random or frequent and allows us to begin to detail the processes that shaped our evolutionary history," Scerri said, according to the specialized journal Cell Press.

Natural barriers, such as rivers, deserts and forests, that separated these populations, created opportunities for migration and contact between groups that had previously separated.

The theory presented today, which points out that there was mixing and isolation of populations from the extreme south to the coasts of northern Africa, is more consistent with the fossil and genetic data than a single population model.

The analysis of fossils of "Homo sapiens" combined with inferences made from contemporary DNA samples suggested levels of early human diversity that supported the changing subdivided population model of the researchers.

"For the first time, we have examined all relevant archaeological, fossil, genetic and environmental data to eliminate field-specific biases and assumptions and confirm that a mixture of pan-African origin fits much better with the data we have," Scerri said.

In the future, according to the authors, this research will allow models of human evolutionary history to reject the simple linear progression of what might be called "archaic morphology" towards a more precise explanation of the complexity and irregularity involved in evolution.

"We are an evolutionary lineage with deep African roots, so to understand this history, we must re-examine the evidence from various sources without an a priori conception," concluded the scientist.

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