On this episode of Unsupervised Learning, Razib talks about the rise of modern humans, from their beginning as just one population among a diverse set of human species, to the dominant and only remaining lineage of hominids in the present. His reflections are colored by paleontological findings and begin with the evolution of modern humans and their distinctive physical characteristics in Africa more than 200,000 years ago, then moving on to their breakout from the ancestral continent and the disappearance of Neanderthals. It is at this point that, 50,000 years ago, ancient DNA findings and statistical genomics shape the rest of the story, as the net of modern human expansion pushes to every corner of Eurasia, and eventually makes the leap to Oceania and the New World.
Razib discusses the human phylogenetic tree, and how different populations relate to each other, but also explores the graph of relationships that illustrate how they have mixed. He also discusses the impact of the arrival of modern humans on local ecologies, as megafauna extinctions seem to correspond with the appearance of our species in Australia and the New World. Finally, he relates diverse contemporary populations to their prehistoric antecedents, outlining how the people we know today arrived at their current locations and who their ancestors were.