Allelic genealogy and human evolution

Mol Biol Evol. 1993 Jan;10(1):2-22. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a039995.


Genetic variation at most loci examined in human populations indicates that the (effective) population size has been approximately 10(4) for the past 1 Myr and that individuals have been genetically united rather tightly. Also suggested is that the population size has never dropped to a few individuals, even in a single generation. These impose important requirements for the hypotheses for the origin of modern humans: a relatively large population size and frequent migration if populations were geographically subdivided. Any hypothesis that assumes a small number of founding individuals throughout the late Pleistocene can be rejected. Extraordinary polymorphism at some loci of the major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) rules out the past action of severe bottlenecks, or the so-called founder principle, which invokes only a small number of founding individuals when a new species emerges. This conclusion may be extended to the 35-Myr-old history of the human lineage, because some polymorphism at Mhc loci seems to have lasted that long. Furthermore, although the population structure prior to the late Pleistocene is less clear, owing to the insensitivity of Mhc alleles, even to low levels of migration, the nature of Mhc polymorphism suggests that the effective size of populations leading to humans was as large as 10(5). Hence, the effective population size of humans might have become somewhat smaller in most of the late Pleistocene. The reduction could be due either to the then adverse environment in the Old World and/or to the increased migration rate. It is also argued that population explosion fostered by the agriculture revolution has had significant effects on incorporating new alleles into human populations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein C-II
  • Apolipoproteins C / genetics
  • Blood Group Antigens / genetics
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DR Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / genetics
  • Hominidae / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phylogeny*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • Apolipoprotein C-II
  • Apolipoproteins C
  • Blood Group Antigens
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • HLA Antigens
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • DNA