But this is not your typical Adam and Eve story.
A controversial scientific study has implied that all modern humans might have “spawned” from a single couple, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Furthermore, researchers also found that 9 out of 10 animal species also descend from one specific couple, according to a study published by scientists from the University of Basel (Switzerland) and Rockefeller University (NY, USA).
By surveying the genetic barcodes of more than five million animals–as well as humans–from 10,000 different species inhabiting Earth, scientists concluded that we ‘spawned’ from a single pair of adults after a ‘catastrophic event’ nearly drove the human race to extinction, some 200,000 years ago. The so-called genetic barcodes or DNA snippets that result outside the nuclei of living cells seem to indicate that not only humans originate from one specific couple but as many as nine out of ten animal species as well.
All Humans May Be Descended From a Pair That Lived 200,000 Years
As noted in the study, evidence supports the theory that most species, be it a bird or a, moth, or fish, like modern humans, arose very recently and have not had enough time to develop a lot of genetic diversity. In fact, the 0.1% average genetic diversity within humanity today corresponds to the divergence of modern humans as a distinct species about 100,000 – 200,000 years ago – not very long in evolutionary terms. The same is likely true of over 90% of species on Earth today. “DNA bar-coding” is a quick, simple technique to identify species reliably through a short DNA sequence from a particular region of an organism.
According to senior research associate Mark Stoeckle and research associate David Thaler of the University of Basel, Switzerland, as much as ninety percent of all animal species that exist today on Earth can be traced back to parents that seemingly all started giving birth at about the same time, some 250,000 years ago, causing us to reconsider established patterns of human and animal evolution. “This conclusion is very surprising, and I fought against it as hard as I could, Thaler explained. “At a time when humans place so much emphasis on individual and group differences, maybe we should spend more time on how we resemble one another and the rest of the animal kingdom,” said Stoeckle.
A Catastrophic Event?
The discoveries made by Stoeckle and Thaler raise several new questions. What predates the couple from which the remaining humans today came into existence? What forced the human race to start over in such a relatively short period of time? And what does this mean for religion? Did the human race really restart after a cataclysmic event on Earth? Or is there a possibility that we have an inbuilt reset button that causes us to restart every once in a while as a species? According to the Daily Mail, the new find suggests the possibility of an “inbuilt human evolutionary process wherein we break down and die out, leaving the need to start from scratch.” As it turns out, we humans are surprisingly similar to one another and other species.
As explained by Jesse Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University, “If a Martian landed on Earth and met a flock of pigeons and a crowd of humans, one would not seem more diverse than the other according to the basic measure of mitochondrial DNA.” In the study published in the journal Human Evolution, scientists analyzed the ‘mitochondrial DNA,’ which mothers pass down from one generation to another, and found that there is an ‘absence of human exceptionalism.’ “Our approach combines DNA barcodes, broad but not deep, from the entire animal kingdom with more detailed sequence information available for the entire mitochondrial genome of modern humans and a few other species. We analyzed DNA barcode sequences from thousands of modern humans in the same way as those from other animal species,” says Dr. Thaler.
Greater genetic diversity
“One might have thought that, due to their high population numbers and wide geographic distribution, humans might have led to greater genetic diversity than other animal species,” he adds. “At least for mitochondrial DNA, humans are low to average in genetic diversity.” “Experts have interpreted low genetic variation among living humans as a result of our recent expansion from a small population in which a sequence from one mother became the ancestor for all modern human mitochondrial sequences,” says Dr. Thaler. “Our paper strengthens the argument that the low variation in the mitochondrial DNA of modern humans also explains the similar low variation found in over 90% of living animal species – we all likely originated by similar processes, and most animal species are likely young.”
To make their discovery, scientists used massive data from the world’s fastest-growing biological databases and literature in evolutionary theory, including Darwin’s. The study has already been misinterpreted in many religious circles, which point toward Adam and Eve and how the Bible is right. However, the scientific paper does not suggest that humans came into existence miraculously, but our species is forced to reconstruct itself more often than we thought. Furthermore, as revealed by Michael Marshall over at Forbes, the study and its results may have been misinterpreted by outlets.
“[T]he study they rest on does not demonstrate anything of the kind, and other lines of evidence strongly suggest that past human populations were always much larger than two,” Marshall revealed. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the researchers who participated in the study explained that their findings were “consistent” with there existing a founding pair of humans, and not that they’d found evidence of said pair.
Update January 2021; the article was edited to explain the study’s findings and clarify that the researchers did not actually discover the pair of humans from which the imply all humans may be descended.
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