Africa is the birthplace of modern humans, and is the source of the geographic expansion of ancestral populations into other regions of the world. Indigenous Africans are characterized by high levels of genetic diversity within and between populations. The pattern of genetic variation in these populations has been shaped by demographic events occurring over the last 200,000 years. The dramatic variation in climate, diet, and exposure to infectious disease across the continent has also resulted in novel genetic and phenotypic adaptations in extant Africans. This review summarizes some recent advances in our understanding of the demographic history and selective pressures that have influenced levels and patterns of diversity in African populations.
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