Dr Simon Ho has been awarded a Discovery Project grant from the Australian Research Council to conduct research on ancient mitochondrial DNA from humans. The work will be led jointly with Dr Wolfgang Haak and Dr Bastien Llamas from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide.
The work will generate ~200 ancient mitochondrial genomes with representative coverage of the currently known worldwide human diversity. This will improve our ability to estimate the timescale of human evolution and migration, which is a key goal of genetic analysis. It provides the foundation for studying our evolutionary and demographic history, our relationships to other hominids, and our impact on the natural world. The project aims to use ancient DNA data to improve estimates of our evolutionary timescale.
Preliminary studies have shown that the use of ancient DNA sequences as internal calibration points in phylogenetic analysis can improve estimates of mutation rates and evolutionary timescales. Using a well-sampled series of ancient DNA sequences, the proposed research will refine the human mitochondrial timescale. This has the potential to place an accurate timescale on the migration history of anatomically modern humans, and to reconstruct global demographic expansions, including the major peopling events across the globe.