Most human populations are the product of a series of range expansions having occurred since modern humans left Africa some 50,000 years ago to colonise the rest of the world, but how have these processes influenced today’s population diversity?


Most human populations are the product of a series of range expansions having occurred since modern humans left Africa some 50,000 years ago to colonise the rest of the world, but how have these processes influenced today’s population diversity? An international research team led by Damian Labuda at the University of Montreal, Hélène Vézina from the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) and by Laurent Excoffier from the University of Bern and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics have studied the effects of rapid territorial and demographic expansions on recent human evolution.

Using genealogies including more than one million individuals in a recently colonised region of Quebec, they show that pioneer individuals on the edge of the colonisation wave had a selective advantage, such that their genes are now predominantly found in the population. Similar processes are likely to have occurred in other regions of the world, so that this study suggests that range expansions played a key role in human evolution. The results of their study were published on 3 November in the prestigious journal Science.

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