News FocusHUMAN EVOLUTION

Turning Back the Clock: Slowing the Pace of Prehistory

Science  12 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6104, pp. 189-191
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6104.189

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Summary

Researchers have used the number of mutations in DNA like a molecular clock to date key events in human evolution. Now it seems that the molecular clock ticks more slowly than anyone had thought, and many dates may need to be adjusted. Over the past 3 years, researchers have used new methods to sequence whole human genomes, allowing them to measure directly, for the first time, the average rate at which new mutations arise in a newborn baby. Most of these studies conclude that the mutation rate in humans today is roughly half the rate that has been used in many evolutionary studies since 2000, which would make genetic estimates of dates older than previously believed. The question now is how much older?