Molecular Anthropology

Molecular anthropology is a field of anthropology in which molecular analysis is used to determine evolutionary links between ancient and modern human populations, as well as between contemporary species. Generally, comparisons are made between sequence, either DNA or protein sequence, however early studies used comparative serology.

By examining DNA sequences in different populations, scientists can determine the closeness of relationships between populations (or within populations). Certain similarities in genetic makeup let molecular anthropologists determine whether or not different groups of people belong to the same haplogroup, and thus if they share a common geographical origin. This is significant because it allows anthropologists to trace patterns of migration and settlement, which gives helpful insight as to how contemporary populations have formed and progressed over time.

Molecular anthropology has been extremely useful in establishing the evolutionary tree of humans and other primates, including closely related species like chimps and gorillas. While there are clearly many morphological similarities between humans and chimpanzees, for example, certain studies also have concluded that there is roughly a 98 percent commonality between the DNA of both species. However, more recent studies have modified the commonality of 98 percent to a commonality of 94 percent, showing that the genetic gap between humans and chimps is bigger than originally thought. Such information is useful in searching for common ancestors and coming to a better understanding of how humans evolved.

Read more about Molecular AnthropologyHaploid Loci in Molecular Anthropology, X-linked Studies, Ancient DNA Sequencing, Causes of Errors

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