In quale luogo, da chi e dove si è originata la nostra specie?

Davide Bertè 5 marzo 2012

In quale luogo, da chi e dove si è originato Homo sapiens, la nostra specie?

Le principali teorie sono due: quella multiregionale e quella dell’out of Africa (uscita dall’Africa).

Davide Bertè
Davide Bertè

La teoria multiregionale, avanzata da Wolpoff negli anni ’80 dello scorso secolo, sostiene che Homo sapiens si sia evoluto indipendentemente nei vari continenti dalle specie ivi presenti. Le differenze tra popolazioni sarebbero poi state mitigate da un continuo flusso genico tra popolazioni contigue.

La teoria dell’out of Africa, avanzata da Stringer nei primi anni ’80, sostiene che ci siamo evoluti da una piccola popolazione in Africa (un isolato periferico) e da lì ci siamo diffusi nel resto del mondo. Le specie presenti precedentemente nei vari continenti sarebbero state sostituite dalla nostra.

Queste le due teorie rivali fino al 1987, quando venne fatto il primo studio genetico sulle popolazioni attuali per capire dove era avvenuta la nostra prima origine. Per capirlo si era ricorsi allo studio del DNA mitocondriale (mtDNA). I mitocondri sono degli organelli cellulari, di origine simbiontica, dotati di proprio DNA. Hanno tutta una serie di proprietà che li rendono molto interessanti:

  1. poiché ci sono molti mitocondri in ogni cellula, il mtDNA è molto abbondante. (Una cellula somatica contiene circa 10mila copie di mtDNA ma solamente due copie di DNA nucleare).
  2. Il tasso di mutazione è elevato e quindi permette di calibrare l’orologio molecolare anche per una specie giovane come la nostra. (L’orologio molecolare è un metodo che, in base al numero di mutazioni in una sequenza, permette di stabilire una data di divergenza tra due linee)
  3. É ereditato esclusivamente per via materna.

Quest’ultimo punto semplifica molto la ricostruzione delle linee filogenetiche. Infatti, se torniamo indietro di una generazione avrò due antenati (il padre e la madre), a due generazioni altri 4 antenati (i 4 nonni) e a 5 generazioni avrò già 32 antenati. Considerando il mtDNA, invece, avrò sempre una unica capostipite, in quanto considererò solo la linea di discendenza diretta da madre in figlia.

Ci si attende che il ramo più antico, con un maggior numero di generazioni, abbia avuto maggior tempo di subire mutazioni: questa è la situazione che si riscontra in Africa. La nostra capostipite era africana (quella che è stata soprannominata “Eva mitocondriale”).

Tarando l’orologio molecolare si è giunti alla conclusione che la nostra origine è avvenuta circa 200ka fa.

Studi successivi sul cromosoma Y (trasmesso di padre in figlio), sul cromosoma X (trasmesso in linea materna) e altri tratti selezionati del genoma hanno confermato sia l’origine africana che la data.

L’out of Africa non va considerato come una migrazione ma come una diffusione di una specie in seguito ad un Leggi tutto “In quale luogo, da chi e dove si è originata la nostra specie?”

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