Southern African Genomes Sequenced


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Group of hunters from the Ju/’hoansi tribe in the Namibian Bush/ Stephan C. Schuster

Researchers from Penn State University, the University of New South Wales in Australia, and the Baylor College of Medicine have sequenced the genomes of four individuals from different groups of the click-speaking San of southern Africa, as well as of Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.  Their results, published online yesterday in the journal Nature, are providing striking new insights into human genetic diversity.

Joanna Mountain, 23andMe’s Senior Director of Research, has been studying the genetics of click-speaking peoples of Africa for over ten years.  Dr. Mountain said the new study “has demonstrated that any two San individuals are as genetically different from one another as a European and a Chinese individual. Clearly the linguistic diversity of the San is matched or even exceeded by their genetic diversity. Furthermore, even though the San Bushmen are often described, even by this study’s authors, as the ‘oldest known lineage of modern humans,’ the new genetic data reveal that the San have evolved genetically as much as any group, partly through the random mutations that occur over time, but also through changes that enabled them to handle their often challenging, exceedingly dry environment.”

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