Ancestors in Our Genome: The New Science of Human Evolution

Eugene E. Harris. Oxford Univ, $27.95 (248p) ISBN 978-0-19-997803-8
With the sequencing of the human genome, the genomes of many of our primate relatives, and those of both Neanderthals and Denisovans (another hominin), scientists are now able to answer previously unimaginable questions about our origins. Harris, of New York University’s Center for the Study of Human Origins, uses these new data sets and tools to “tell the story of the genetic quest, from small stretches of DNA to entire genomes, to trace our past to the origin of our lineage and find our closest ape relative.” He presents a sophisticated introduction to population genetics, explaining how gene data can be used to verify or dismiss competing hypotheses for how and when early humans moved out of Africa; the size and timing of the ancestral population that gave rise to both humans and chimpanzees; and how and when humans, and perhaps human ancestors, developed the ability to speak. Harris also explores the current knowledge of individual gene changes that underlie human physiology and behavior, and describes how we know how much Neanderthal and Denisovan genetic material is extant in various human groups while discussing the evolutionary implications of those remnants. The book is technical, thus challenging for the general reader, but is written well enough to make the effort worthwhile. B&w illus. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 12/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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