February 5, 2010

Charles Darwin A Direct Descendant Of Cro-Magnon

The father of evolution, Charles Darwin, who hypothesized that all humans evolved from common ancestors, was a direct descendant of the Cro-Magnon people, researchers reported on Thursday.

The scientists said that Darwin came from Haplogroup R1b, one of the most common European male lineages.

"Men belonging to Haplogroup R1b are direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon people who, beginning 30,000 years ago, dominated the human expansion into Europe and heralded the demise of the Neanderthal species," said genealogist Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project, an international study mapping the migratory history of humans.

Wells said they obtained a DNA sample from Darwin's 48-year-old great-great grandson Chris Darwin, a tour guide and adventurer in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia.  Chris Darwin's great-grandfather was Charles Darwin's astronomer son George.

Wells said a trace of Darwin's deep ancestry revealed that his forefathers left Africa some 45,000 years ago, splitting into a new lineage 5,000 years later in Iran or southern Central Asia.

"Before heading west towards Europe, the next mutation, which defined a new lineage, appeared in a man around 35,000 years ago," he told the AFP.

"Approximately 70 percent of men in southern England belong to Haplogroup R1b, and in parts of Ireland and Spain that number exceeds 90 percent."

Chris Darwin moved to Australia in 1986.  Tests of his maternal DNA revealed he is likely a direct descendent of the women who migrated across the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia to reach the area near the Black Sea.

"The Genographic Project is incredibly important," Darwin told the AFP.

"The project is one way to show us the true story of humanity, of how we migrated across the world and that we are all related, tracing back to a small group of men and women who lived in Africa".

Wells was presenting the research ahead of the project's annual scientific conference in Sydney, in which representatives from 11 regional teams will gather to discuss their work.

There are now 265,000 members of the public involved in the project, which is an initiative of National Geographic, IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation charity.  Participation kits can be purchased online for $100, with proceeds going towards the research and other cultural projects.


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