Science  27 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6093, pp. 396

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  1. Genetic Code Reveals Hunter-Gatherer Diversity

    As prehistoric humans migrated across Africa and into Asia and Europe, their encounters with new environments sparked genetic changes. In a study published online in Cell, researchers peering into the genomes of several African peoples have found signs of early divergence.

    The international team, led by geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, sequenced the genomes of five people from three different hunter-gatherer groups: the Hadza and Sandawe from Tanzania and the Pygmies from Cameroon, some of the most ancient lineages in the world. This is the first African population genomics study using high-coverage sequencing. According to the DNA evidence, as the groups migrated to new territories, genes responsible for immunity, taste, and smell began to change. The genetic trail suggests that the Pygmies' short stature is controlled by several large chunks of DNA involving the pituitary gland, which regulates growth, immunity, and many other functions. Perhaps most intriguing, all three groups showed signs of having intermarried with an earlier, as-yet-unidentified species, perhaps the African equivalent of the Neandertal in Europe.