“A Genealogy for All of Humanity” – University of Oxford Researchers Create Largest Ever Human Family Tree

Abstract Evolution Concept

A new genealogical network reveals unprecedented detail on how individuals worldwide are related to each other.

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute have taken a major step towards mapping the entirety of genetic relationships among humans: a single genealogy that traces the ancestry of all of us. The study has been published today in Science.

  • New genealogical network of human genetic diversity reveals how individuals across the world are related to each other, in unprecedented detail
  • The research predicts common ancestors, including approximately when and where they lived
  • The analysis recovers key events in human evolutionary history, including the migration out of Africa
  • The underlying method could have widespread applications in medical research, for instance identifying genetic predictors of disease risk

Human genetic research has made amazing strides over the last two decades, producing genomic data for hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of ancient people. This opens up the intriguing potential of tracing the roots of human genetic variation in order to create an accurate map of the relationships between people all across the globe.

Up until now, the biggest obstacles to achieving this goal have been finding a mechanism to merge genomic sequences from several databases and creating algorithms to deal with such large amounts of data. The Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford has developed a brand-new technique that makes it simple to mix data from many sources and scales to handle millions of genomic sequences.

Dr. Yan Wong, an evolutionary geneticist at the Big Data Institute, and one of the principal authors, explained: “We have basically built a huge family tree, a genealogy for all of humanity that models as exactly as we can the history that generated all the genetic variation we find in humans today. This genealogy allows us to see how every person’s genetic sequence relates to every other, along all the points of the genome.”

Since individual genomic regions are only inherited from one parent, either the mother or the father, the ancestry of each point on the genome can be thought of as a tree. The set of trees, known as a “tree sequence” or “ancestral recombination graph,” links genetic regions back through time to ancestors where the genetic variation first appeared.

Lead author Dr. Anthony Wilder Wohns, who undertook the research as part of his PhD at the Big Data Institute and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, said: “Essentially, we are reconstructing the genomes of our ancestors and using them to form a vast network of relationships. We can then estimate when and where these ancestors lived. The power of our approach is that it makes very few assumptions about the underlying data and can also include both modern and ancient DNA samples.”

The study integrated data on modern and ancient human genomes from eight different databases and included a total of 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations. The ancient genomes included samples found across the world with ages ranging from 1,000s to over 100,000 years. The algorithms predicted where common ancestors must be present in the evolutionary trees to explain the patterns of genetic variation. The resulting network contained almost 27 million ancestors.

After adding location data on these sample genomes, the authors used the network to estimate where the predicted common ancestors had lived. The results successfully recaptured key events in human evolutionary history, including the migration out of Africa.

The study team intends to continue adding genetic data as it becomes available, even though the genealogy map is currently a very comprehensive resource. The dataset may readily include millions of extra genomes since tree sequences store data in a very effective manner.

Dr. Wong said: “This study is laying the groundwork for the next generation of DNA sequencing. As the quality of genome sequences from modern and ancient DNA samples improves, the trees will become even more accurate and we will eventually be able to generate a single, unified map that explains the descent of all the human genetic variation we see today.”

Dr. Wohns added: “While humans are the focus of this study, the method is valid for most living things; from orangutans to bacteria. It could be particularly beneficial in medical genetics, in separating out true associations between genetic regions and diseases from spurious connections arising from our shared ancestral history.”

Reference: “A unified genealogy of modern and ancient genomes” by Anthony Wilder Wohns, Yan Wong, Ben Jeffery, Ali Akbari, Swapan Mallick, Ron Pinhasi, Nick Patterson, David Reich, Jerome Kelleher and Gil McVean, 24 February 2022, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.abi8264

10 Comments on "“A Genealogy for All of Humanity” – University of Oxford Researchers Create Largest Ever Human Family Tree"

  1. Daniel Robert Izzo | February 25, 2022 at 6:23 am | Reply

    Hi Cuz:

    Did you know you have over one billion great plus grandparent names since 1000 AD ? I know less than 150 of them since 1469 AD.

    All Human Beings share 98% of their DNA.

    This is a Google question:

    ” How many ancestors did I have 1000 years ago?

    Very simply, if you postulate that 1000 years was 30 generations ago then your theoretical number of ancestors is two to the 30th, or just over a billion: 1,073,741,824.”

    In 15000 BC Europe was covered with a 1 mile high ice glacier, that wasn’t that long a go but I just read this..I myself tested 1% North African ,,,.people are more closely related than I thought…I knew all people share 98% DNA but this is shocking:

    What was Africa like during the Ice Age?

    What was Africa like during the Ice Age?
    Answer (1 of 5): Africa was the only habitable continent for humans during the Ice Age. The strip of land on Africa’s southern coast – around 240 miles east of Cape Town – became the only place that remained habitable during the devastating ice age, scientists claim. The sudden change in temperat…

    ” Africa was the only habitable continent for humans during the Ice Age. The strip of land on Africa’s southern coast – around 240 miles east of Cape Town – became the only place that remained habitable during the devastating ice age, scientists claim. The sudden change in temperature wiped out many species elsewhere around 195,000 years ago. Researchers believe this could account for the fact that humans have less genetic diversity than other species.

    Some scientists even believe that the human race’s population may have fallen to just a few hundred individuals who managed to survive in one location. Professor Curtis Marean, of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University discovered ancient human artifacts in the isolated caves around an area known as Pinnacle Point, South Africa.

    Recent finds suggest the small population that gave rise to all humans alive today survived by exploiting a unique combination of resources along the southern coast of Africa. Humans would have been able to survive because of rich vegetation that was available in the area. The sea would have also been a good source of food as currents carrying nutrients would have passed by the shore, bringing with them a plentiful supply of fish.

    Source: Humans survived ice age by sheltering in ‘Garden of Eden’, claim scientists end

    I think we have the evidence to prove that theory: read this

    Dwarf Elephant

    Dwarf elephant – Wikipedia
    ” Fossil remains of dwarf elephants have been found on the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus, Malta (at Għar Dalam), Crete (in Chania at Vamos, Stylos and in a now-underwater cave on the coast), Sicily, Sardinia, the Cyclades Islands and the Dodecanese Islands.”

    So how did dwarf elephants get to these islands in the Mediterranean sea ? The Mediterranean sea was dried up land from all the frozen and locked up water during the ice ages.

  2. I think it’s good. Maybe they can find the missing link between man and ape.

  3. Goosepunk — You are confused. The “missing link” is an outdated, meaningless concept. There are breaks in the fossil record, but zooming out you can see in the fossil record development from bipedal apes with brains the size of chimpanzees, to larger-brained hominids, to Homo erectus which spread across Eurasia, to hominids on the Neandersovan branch, to early Homo sapiens, etc.

    And at any rate, this is a study of modern humans — it doesn’t go back to the common ancestor of the Great Apes and humans.

    It’s true that we don’t know the identity of the last common ancestor of Neandersovans and Sapiens, buy whoever those people were, they were people — people who lived perhaps 700k years ago. And I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.

  4. There is no missing link because it just never happened that way. Earthlings stopped and never advanced. It took Aliens to boost our DNA to get our present brain size and function. Anthropologist should just learn to code.

  5. Just think about it | February 25, 2022 at 7:32 pm | Reply

    We didn’t evolve from apes hello if apes evolved to humans then there wouldn’t be apes today. That wouldn’t make any sense when a species evolves to adapt and survive those that don’t adapt would go extinct, and seeing as apes exist presently we didn’t evolve from apes. What they are talking about here is being able to show how everyone is basically related you know common ancestors. And if they can do this it should lead back to one man and one woman.

    • Edward Armstrong | March 17, 2022 at 1:37 pm | Reply

      You might usefully read a basic modern textbook about evolution. That should help clear up your many misunderstandings and stop you from making so many basic mistakes.
      Unfortunately, I suspect that you are not interested in the truth.

  6. These semi scientific efforts to define who we are are doomed to failure.

  7. Guess again, my friends. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has had this for decades in familysearch.org.

  8. Did they also subsequently trace ALL the monkeys, chimpanzees?

  9. segredos de cleópatra livro | April 19, 2023 at 8:23 pm | Reply

    I really enjoyed your article. Congrats on the content. 33824608

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