Friday, December 31, 2010

Nature news today: Human remains spark spat

Below is my comment at the Nature website on the Nature news report today "Human remains spark spat" about the latest 400000 year old modern human fossils from Israel.

The authors' conclusion is obviously the same as being reported by the press: "We offer the most reasonable conclusion based on the statistical evidence: that they represent the same population as the Skhul and Qafzeh finds, thus pushing the date for that type of early man back to a much earlier time." And Skhul and Qafzeh finds are by all account modern Homo Sapiens.

The Out of Africa model is based on the neutral theory interpretation of genetic diversity shown by the fast evolving sequences such as mitochondrial DNA and whole genome DNA which are mostly non coding and hence fast evolving. However, fast evolving sequences most of the time have reached maximum genetic diversity over evolutionary time scale, according to the newly proposed Maximum Genetic Diversity hypothesis (1), and are therefore no longer linearly related to time of divergence and cannot be informative to phylogenetic relationships. The correct approach is to use slowest evolving sequences such as non-synonymous changes in the most conserved or slowest evolving proteins. Try it and see which, the “Out of Africa" or "the Multiregional", will get the last laugh.

1. Huang, S. (2010) The Overlap Feature of the Genetic Equidistance Result—A Fundamental Biological Phenomenon Overlooked for Nearly Half of a Century. Biological Theory, 5: 40-52.

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