Recombination gives a new insight in the effective population size and the history of the old world human populations

Mol Biol Evol. 2012 Jan;29(1):25-30. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr213. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


The information left by recombination in our genomes can be used to make inferences on our recent evolutionary history. Specifically, the number of past recombination events in a population sample is a function of its effective population size (Ne). We have applied a method, Identifying Recombination in Sequences (IRiS), to detect specific past recombination events in 30 Old World populations to infer their Ne. We have found that sub-Saharan African populations have an Ne that is approximately four times greater than those of non-African populations and that outside of Africa, South Asian populations had the largest Ne. We also observe that the patterns of recombinational diversity of these populations correlate with distance out of Africa if that distance is measured along a path crossing South Arabia. No such correlation is found through a Sinai route, suggesting that anatomically modern humans first left Africa through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait rather than through present Egypt.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Continental Population Groups / genetics*
  • Continental Population Groups / history*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Europe
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Population Density*
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric