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University of Arizona’s Michael Hammer, a population geneticist, has been investigating the migration of ancient Asians into the New World. Scientists are now investigating base pair variation or single nucleotide polymorphisms, to reconstruct family trees dating back thousands of years ago.

Homo erectus

Through research, Hammer has discovered a sequence on the X chromosome that suggests that modern humans that arrived in Asia bred with “archaic hominids” called Homo erectus. Hammer hopes that modern human DNA will contain small bits of information that can be used to trace back to the archaic form.

Hammer’s research tests the “Out of Africa” theory that modern humans (homo sapiens) evolved in Africa, and migrated into the rest of the world, replacing inferior species such as Homo erectus and the Neanderthals.

Hammer uses polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to copy the samples of DNA that he takes from the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son. The Y chromosome was believed to have no polymorphic diversity, but Hammer explained that is not entirely true. The Y chromosome does have diversity, one must look at hundreds of sequences to find these diversities however.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

Hammer found polymorphisms in the Y chromosome and started to construct a family tree of these polymorphisms, which lead back to a comman African ancestor dating back over 100,000 years ago.

Hammer is continuing his research in hopes to trace the roots of humankind.

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