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Africa Has the Highest Genetic Diversity


Genetic genealogy testing has become a popular tool for people wanting to map their ancestry. It can be particularly useful for people who want to trace their ancestry in a part of the world that lacks official government records. However, the most comprehensive genetic study of Africa suggests that there are practical limits for African Americans trying to trace their roots using genetic genealogy tests.

The international study led by geneticist Sarah Tishkoff from the University of Pennsylvania sampled the bloodlines of 121 distinct genealogical populations dispersed across sub-Sahara Africa. The result of the study published in the journal Science Express suggests that it will be difficult for African Americans to trace their ancestry to specific locations in Africa. “It may be very challenging to trace back ancestry to particular tribes or ethnic groups” said Tishkoff “unless considerable more markers are used [in commercial genetic genealogy tests]”.

Tishkoff and her team travelled to the remotest corners of Africa to collect suitable blood samples for DNA analysis. “Some people had never seen a fair-skinned person before” said Tishkoff. The team also looked at 98 African Americans. What they found on average was that 71% of African American genes could be traced to the broad African linguistic group known as Niger-Kordofanian, 8% to other African groups, 13% to European and 8% to miscellaneous other places. The results for European ancestry for most African Americans is lower than the 20% reported in other studies (see Gene Study Shows Most Black Americans Have Some European Ancestry).

The study conducted by Tishkoff suggests that 9 out of 14 major “ancestral clusters” for all of humanity are still based in Africa. This genetic information is reasonably consistent with other linguistic and archaeological studies. For example, there are roughly 6,000 languages in the world today, of which about 2,000 languages are unique to Africa. The major conclusion of the study is that Africa is the origin of humanity and it continues to remain the genetic melting pot for all of humanity. This is interesting news for anyone wanting to trace their African American heritage.

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