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Multi-regional origin

The multi-regional origin hypothesis of human origins holds that some, or all, of the genetic variation between the contemporary human populations that are colloquially termed races is attributable to genetic inheritance from hominid species, or subspecies, that were geographically dispersed throughout Asia, and possibly Europe and Australasia, prior to the evolution of modern Homo sapiens (conventionally dated to at least 70,000, possibly 150,000, years ago).

Candidate populations suggested by multi-regionalists as sources for such genetic variation include Homo neanderthalensis and Peking Man (a local subspecies of Homo erectus).

This view contrasts with the single origin hypothesis, which holds that modern Homo sapiens evolved from a single, geographically localised, ancestral hominid population, whose descendants ultimately replaced all other species of hominids over the course of tens of thousands of years without interbreeding or subspeciation.

Table of contents
1 Proponents of multiregionalism
2 Recent evidence
3 See also
4 Footnotes
5 External links

Proponents of multiregionalism

Two of the scientists most closely associated with the multiregional hypothesis are Carleton S. Coon and Milford H. Wolpoff.

Wolpoff, however, distinguishes his own views from Coon's as follows:

"Since its inception in the 1980s, multiregional evolution has never been polyphyletic. It has always been a theory about intraspecific evolutionary processes with an emphasis on gene flow... multiregional evolution [is not] a polyphyletic model of parallel racial evolution similar to that of Carlton Coon’s in the 1960s." ¹

Recent evidence

The multi-regional hypothesis was originally developed from the fossil evidence, but more recent work has focused on molecular data, in which DNA is sequenced. In particular, work has been done with non-recombining DNA such as mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome. Most researchers in this field believe that the molecular evidence strongly favors the single origin hypothesis over the multi-regional one.

For instance, in 2001, a team of Chinese scientists wrote: "all Y-chromosome samples from China, with no exception, were originally derived from a lineage of African origin. Hence, we conclude that even a very minor contribution of in situ hominid origin in China cannot be supported by the Y-chromosome evidence."²

In a related publication, scientists in Asia, the US, and the UK examined the Y-chromosomes of more than 12,000 people from across Asia and found no traces of any ancient non-African influence.³ One of the co-authors of this second study, R. Spencer Wells, is quoted as saying "This really puts the nail in the coffin of multiregionalism."4

Nevertheless, proponents of multiregionalism such as Wolpoff believe the molecular data can be reconciled with the multiregional origin hypothesis, and may even support it.

For a recent review from the point of view of a paleoanthropologist, see the article by Donald C. Johanson cited in the External links section below.

See also


  1. Letter to the Editor from Professor Milford H. Wolpoff and Dr. Rachel Caspari, Human Nature Review 2002 Volume 2: 297 (10 July)
  2. Yuehai Ke et al. Chinese Science Bulletin article cited below.
  3. Yuehai Ke et al. Science article cited below.
  4. " class="external">

External links

Yuehai Ke et al. "African Origin of Modern Humans in East Asia: A Tale of 12,000 Y Chromosomes" Science Vol. 292 11 May 2001, p. 151ff.
KE Yuehai et al. "Y-chromosome evidence for no independent origin of modern human in China." Chinese Science Bulletin Vol. 46 No. 11, p. 935ff (June 2001)
Donald Johanson. Origins of Modern Humans: Multiregional or Out of Africa? (2001)