Yesterday, a very interesting paper was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics by the Genographic Project Consortium entitled “The Dawn of Human Matrilineal Diversity.” The results of the study, which examined the 624 mtDNA genomes from sub-saharan Haplogroup L lineages, suggests that humanity once split into two small groups with one group in eastern Africa and the other in southern Africa, and that humanity bottlenecked into a relatively small number of individuals (as few as 2,000 based on results from a previous study). Note, as always, that these are hypotheses based upon the results of this and other studies, and will require further research to support or refute.
Two mtDNA Branches
The human mtDNA tree has two main branches, the L0 branch which includes individuals concentrated in southern and eastern Africa, and the L1’2’3’4’5’6′ branch (aka the L1’5 branch), which includes the entire remainder of humanity including non-Africans (see the figure to the left). Based upon the analysis of the 624 genomes, the researchers hypothesized that the L0 and L1’5 branches diverged into two small populations around 140,000 to 210,000 years ago, with one group settling in eastern Africa (the L1’5 branch) and the other settling in southern Africa (the L0 branch). Interestingly, the results also suggest that there was little to no intermingling of these branches for the next 50,000 to 100,000 years!