the largest family tree in human history

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If we were to represent the family tree that you have just created in the Oxford University, the result would probably look more like a forest than the stylized bushes we drew in school going back, hopefully, to our great-great-grandparents. At a minimum, the Oxford result would resemble a redwood tree with fleshy roots and branches. And it is logical. What they have produced in Big Data Institute of the British institution is the largest genealogy in the history of mankind, with nearly 27 million ancestors going back thousands of generations.

As the University of Oxford itself calls it, it is the “Largest human family tree in history”. It is not a metaphor, nor an exaggeration, nor a publicity hook. Its design summarizes the ties that unite us all, among us, and with our ancestors. Also how we have spread far and wide across the globe. To trace it, its creators have integrated data from modern and ancient human genomes from eight different databases. A sum of 3,609 individual genomic sequences, in total, from 215 different populations.

For their work, the Oxford scientists used genomes that included samples from around the world that were between 1,000 and 100,000 years old. With the help of algorithms, they predicted where the common ancestors are located and formed a gigantic network with almost 27 million ancestors. With that information they estimated where they had lived and set up a spectacular 40 second video showing dispersal from East Africa to the rest of the planet.

A tree with branches all over the globe

“We have built a grand family tree, a genealogy for all of humanity that models as accurately as we can the history that generated all the genetic variation that we find in humans today. This genealogy allows us to see how the genetic sequence of each person is related to the others, throughout all the points of the genome”, explains the Doctor Yang Wongevolutionary geneticist, in a statement from the University of Oxford.

Over the last two decades, human genetics has experienced remarkable advances. However, the great challenge remainedexplains the university— to combine genomic sequences from multiple databases and develop algorithms to manage their information. The work of Big Data Institute of Oxford is key precisely because it is based on a new method for easily combining data from different sources and working with millions of genome sequences.

The surprising result shows a true chronicle of humanity. As part of that process, the researchers even outlined where in the world the common ancestors of the sequenced individuals lived. The solution is still “very preliminary”, notes Anthony Wilder Wohns, one of the study authors, told Live Science; but it already reflects transcendental historical events, such as the dispersion of the Homo sapiens from Africa to Eurasia and the rest of the planet.

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Images and video | Oxford University

If we were to represent the family tree that you have just created in the Oxford University, the result would…

If we were to represent the family tree that you have just created in the Oxford University, the result would…

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