Genetic evidence for larger African population size during recent human evolution

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1999 Mar;108(3):251-60. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199903)108:3<251::AID-AJPA1>3.0.CO;2-H.


Genetic evidence suggests that the long-term average effective size of sub-Saharan Africa is larger than other geographic regions. A method is described that allows estimation of relative long-term regional population sizes. This method is applied to 60 microsatellite DNA loci from a sample of 72 sub-Saharan Africans, 63 East Asians, and 120 Europeans. Average heterozygosity is significantly higher in the sub-Saharan African sample. Expected heterozygosity was computed for each region and locus using a population genetic model based on the null hypothesis of equal long-term population sizes. Average residual heterozygosity is significantly higher in the sub-Saharan African sample, indicating that African population size was larger than other regions during recent human evolution. The best fit of the model is with relative population weights of 0.73 for sub-Saharan Africa, 0.09 for East Asia, and 0.18 for Europe. These results are similar to those obtained using craniometric variation for these three geographic regions. These results, combined with inferences from other genetic studies, support a major role of Africa in the origin of modern humans. It is less clear, however, whether complete African replacement is the most appropriate model. An alternative is an African origin with non-African gene flow. While Africa is an important region in recent human evolution, it is not clear whether the gene pool of our species is completely out of Africa or predominately out of Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA / analysis
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Hominidae / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Repeats*
  • Population Density


  • DNA