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ARTICLE  

Inner ear provides clues to human dispersal from Africa

Inner ear and balance systems are different in various populations of modern humans. Paleoanthropologists have learned that these differences can be used as clues to find out how earlier humans dispersed from Africa.


The hearing and balance system in humans, as in all vertebrates, is housed in a cavity system in the base of the skull -- the bony labyrinth of the inner ear. The researchers analyzed the labyrinth structures in human populations from southern and northern Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and America, including as far south as Patagonia, using computed tomography to obtain high-resolution 3-D data of the bony labyrinth [...] The team further discovered that the 3-D shape of the labyrinth contained important information about the global dispersal of humans from the African continent. The further away a population is geographically from South Africa, the more the shape of the labyrinth differs from that of the South African population. Moreover, the labyrinth data confirm the findings from DNA analyses which show that the genetic distance increases in correlation with the geographical distance from Africa.



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