MAR 27, 2015 10:25 AM PDT

The father of us all lived about 239,000 years ago

Depiction of the Stone Age by Viktor VasnetsovAt least, that's what researchers have concluded after sequencing the genomes of 2,636 Icelanders.

A recent article by Arielle Duhaime-Ross in Verge discusses this and other findings of the huge Icelandic study, which was partly funded by the biopharmaceutical company deCode.

The estimate that our common male ancestor lived about 239,000 years ago contradicts past findings. A 2013 study from the University of Arizona estimated that the age of the father of all humans is about 340,000 years. But the 239,000 number makes more sense when you consider that humanity's most common female ancestor is estimated to have lived about 200,000 years ago.

The set of 2,636 whole-genome sequences used in the study is the largest ever obtained from a single population. Based on the sequencing data, the researchers were able to identify that genetic mutations play a role in everything from Alzheimer's disease to liver disease.

The age of the human species is significant because it is related to how diverse humans are, because the older a species is, the more time it has to develop mutations that differentiate individuals and populations from one another.

Results of the common ancestor study were published in the 25 March 2015 online edition of Nature Genetics.
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