Forty-five dinucleotide short tandem repeat polymorphisms were typed in ten large samples of a globally distributed set of populations. Although these markers had been selected for high heterozygosity in European populations, we found them to be sufficiently informative for linkage analysis in non-Europeans. Heterozygosity, mean number of alleles, and mean number of private alleles followed a common trend: they were highest in the African samples, were somewhat lower in Europeans and East Asians, and were lowest in Amerindians. Genetic distances also reflected this pattern, and distances modelled after the stepwise mutation model yielded trees that were less in agreement with other genetic and archaeological evidence than distances based on differentiation by drift (FST). Genetic variation in non-Africans seems to be a subset of that in Africans, supporting the replacement hypothesis for the origin of modern humans.