A study published in the journal Science reveals that the first human ancestors crossed a protracted and severe bottleneck in which approximately 1,280 breeding individuals were able to maintain a population for about 117,000 years.
A team of researchers from China, Italy and the United States has thus managed to shed light on an inexplicable gap in the fossil record of Africa and Eurasia. They have achieved this by means of a novel method called FitCoal (rapid process of coalescence in infinitesimal time), which allows accurate determination of demographic inferences using current human genomic sequences of 3,154 individuals.
This new new method for inferring ancient population size has revealed a serious bottleneck in the human population that almost wiped out the possibility of humanity as we know it today.
Although this research has shed light on some aspects of early to mid-Pleistocene ancestry, there are still many questions to be answered since this information was discovered.
However, “the fact that FitCoal can detect the old severe bottleneck with even a few sequences represents a great advance,” says lead author, Yun-Xin Futheoretical population geneticist at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center (United States).