Infographic: Field guide to Pleistocene hookups

less than 1 minute read

Here’s my inaugural infographic, illustrating what we know about mating relationships from ancient DNA:

Field guide to Pleistocene hookups
Field guide to Pleistocene hookups, John Hawks CC-BY-NC-ND

The figure accompanying the paper made these relationships seem so anodyne. We have evidence of at least two ancient populations solely because of the traces of their DNA remaining in the genomes of much later individuals. That’s pretty wild!

And I haven’t had time to write up the Mal’ta genome published last month, which shows a possible Siberian conduit for mixture between the ancestors of today’s Europeans and indigenous New World populations.

The Sima de los Huesos mtDNA result doesn’t even factor into this figure, because it does not show clear evidence about interbreeding. But it does show an earlier instance the dynamism of mtDNA clade replacement, which later in time is accomplished in the presence of substantial interbreeding.

I am so tired of diagrams with arbitrary arrows that show “migrations” in the past. Time for arrows that show breeding relationships we can really document. I obviously cannot include many living populations in a graphic like this, but hopefully it communicates the complexity that we’ve discovered!