In this week's Nature, three independent research groups collectively report high-quality genomes of people from more than 280 diverse populations, providing insights into the genetics of individuals from understudied regions and new clues about the migration of modern humans out of Africa. In the first study, investigators publish the genome sequences of 300 people from 142 diverse populations as part of the Simons Genome Diversity Project, finding that the population that gave rise to modern humans substantially diverged 100,000 years ago and that the rate of mutation accumulation has accelerated in non-Africans by 5 percent since then. In the second study, scientists sequenced the genomes of 83 Aboriginal Australians from across the Australian mainland and 25 individuals from the highlands of Papua New Guinea, resulting in the first comprehensive, population-level, whole-genome study of human genetic diversity in Australia. In the last paper, investigators present the Estonian Biocentre Human Genome Diversity Panel, a dataset of 483 high-coverage human genomes from 148 populations worldwide. Among their findings is that at least 2 percent of the genome of modern Papuans features ancestry from a distinct population that diverged from Africans earlier than Eurasians, providing evidence of an early wave of human expansion out of African about 120,000 years ago. Our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on these studies, here.
And in Nature Communications, a multi-institute group of Japanese scientists publish the genome of the extremotolerant Ramazzottius variornatus species of tardigrade, a tiny aquatic animal sometimes called a water bear and known for its ability to survive in hazardous environments such as the vacuum of space. They found an increased number of genes linked to stress tolerance, compared with flies and worms, as well as a protein that binds to DNA and was shown to protect cultured human cells from radiation. By comparing R. variornatus' genome to that of other species, the investigators discovered that the gene that codes for this protein is likely unique. Our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this study, here.