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Modern Human Origins: The Multiregional Theory

1566 words - 7 pages

Multiregional Evolution: a theory that suggests modern humans evolved from individual populations of Homo erectus throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa during the middle of the Pleistocene epoch. Its supporters claim that premodern humans, Homo erectus, migrated from Africa to Europe and Asia and that gene flow amongst these population is responsible for the evolution of modern Homo sapiens (Jurmain, Kilgore, Trevathan, and Ciochon, 2013). This theory was developed by Wolpoff and his colleagues in the 1980s and is a topic they continue to explore today (2000). There are many who discredit this theory though. They believe that the multiregional model does not prove how all of these separate populations remained genetically similar to one another if they all evolved separately. The works of Pearson (2004) and Stringer and Andrews (1988) explore this opposing view to the multiregional model.
Wolpoff, the founder of the multiregional theory, spends the majority of his essay discrediting those who oppose this theory. He expresses the idea in his article, “Multiregional, Not Multiple Origins,” that those who discredit the multiregional theory do not truly understand it. This is explained when he writes,
“For whatever reason, there has been a continued pattern of misinterpreting or incorrectly describing multiregional evolution.” (Wolpoff et al. 2000)
He discusses the work of Chu et al. and how they determined the multiregional theory to be false after studying ancient Chinese populations. When confronted about the lack of genetic evidence to support the multiregional theory, Wolpoff responded that there is a lack of genetic evidence to oppose the theory. He writes,
“No time has been found at which every genetic locus resides in a single African population.” (Wolpoff et al. 2000)
By saying this, Wolpoff means that one cannot prove that all of the uniquely human genes evolved directly in Africa. While this doesn’t disprove anyone’s opposing views on the multiregional theory, it does give someone reason to support this model. This evidence shows that because of a lack of genetic evidence, it is completely plausible that modern humans could have evolved simultaneously in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Pearson opposes the multiregional theory in his article, “Has the Combination of Genetic and Fossil Evidence Solved the Riddle of Modern Human Origins?” He argues that because there was small population of Homo erectus at the time modern humans were beginning to evolve, there wasn’t enough gene flow to support uniform evolution outside of Africa. He writes,
“The effective population size of modern humans is about 10,000 breeding individuals, [Templeton’s study] implies that fewer than 1,000 of those individuals might have lived outside of Africa across the entire expanse of Eurasia…a population density that low would not have allowed a non-African population to survive and would effectively prove the Out-of-Africa model.” (Pearson, 2004)
Pearson’s main idea...

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