Category: Genomics

  • Science moves closer to Adam and Eve?

    Science moves closer to Adam and Eve?

    Yesterday, the journal Science published a study providing evidence that humans are descended from very small population. The authors detect a bottleneck lasting about 100,000 years with an average effective population size of about 1280. They date this to about 813,000 to 930,000 years ago, placing it before the divergence of Neandertals and Denisovans from…

  • Public lecture “Trees of Life: Do they exist?”

    Public lecture “Trees of Life: Do they exist?”

    In gave my inaugural lecture as Professor of Evolutionary Genomics at Queen Mary University of London on 16th November 2022, the film of which can be viewed below. Inaugural lectures are a chance to give a personal view on one’s research field, at a level that will be understood by the whole university and the…

  • Natural v. Artificial Selection

    Natural v. Artificial Selection

    Last week I published a short article in Molecular Ecology on evidence for natural selection. It has proven difficult to show natural selection occurring in real time in wild populations. New approaches may help, and these are being pioneered in studies of Soay sheep. While commenting on these new approaches, I make several general points…

  • Video: Adam, Eve and human genetic diversity

    Video: Adam, Eve and human genetic diversity

    This video summarises my understanding of the current genetic evidence on whether or not humans could have passed through a bottleneck of a single couple at some point in our history. It is a talk I gave in May 2020 for a group of scientists from across Europe who identify as Christians. This audience came…

  • Why phylogenetics is difficult

    Why phylogenetics is difficult

    Here is a short video I made for one of my MSc classes, explaining why building phylogenetic trees is not easy. For examples of this phenomenon in my own research see here and here.

  • A genetic basis for COVID susceptibility

    A genetic basis for COVID susceptibility

    A paper published yesterday supports a hypothesis that Richard Nichols and I made in March 2020. We published an article in The Conversation arguing that we need to know if someone’s chances of severe COVID symptoms are affected by their genes. We suggested: “It may be that just one or two genes are involved. Perhaps…

  • Could we predict personal coronavirus risk from our DNA?

    Could we predict personal coronavirus risk from our DNA?

    This article, co-authored with my colleague Prof. Richard Nichols, was published at The Conversation on 17th March 2020. Since then, Science has published a news article about efforts to do the type of studies that we advocated. NB. This is not about testing to see if we have coronavirus – this is about testing how…

  • Adam and Eve our ghostly ancestors?

    Adam and Eve our ghostly ancestors?

    That a single couple could be the ancestors of all living humans is widely seen as an area of conflict between genetics and the Abrahamic religions. Though little detailed attention has been paid to this idea in the scientific literature (see ‘Adam and Eve: a tested hypothesis?’), current models of the history of genomic variation in…

  • Lost elms of Kent

    Lost elms of Kent

    Mature elm trees in the English landscape are something I and many other have never seen. Dutch Elm Disease killed them all in the 1960s. Only the older generation can remember what we have lost. Browsing through some local photos from the 1930s this weekend, my eyes were opened to the size and grace of…

  • How similar are human and chimpanzee genomes?

    How similar are human and chimpanzee genomes?

    I recently participated in a discussion on the Biologos forum on the degree of similarity between the human and chimpanzee genomes. I was asked for my current view on this issue by Dennis Venema, who had found a old quote online from a newspaper article that I had written in 2008 on this issue. In…

  • Adam and Eve: lessons learned

    Adam and Eve: lessons learned

    This blog was first posted at Nature Ecology & Evolution Community on 14 April 2018 Preliminary conclusions about the possibility of a short, sharp human bottleneck A few months ago I asked this community if modern genome science had tested an “Adam and Eve” hypothesis that the human lineage has passed through short, sharp bottleneck…

  • Responding to Felsenstein, Schaffner and Harshman at The Skeptical Zone

    Here is the text of a comment I posted at The Skeptical Zone in response to comments by Joe Felsenstein, Steve Schaffner and John Harshman on my Nature Ecology and Evolution blog on human bottlenecks: Thank you all for interacting with my Nature Ecology and Evolution Community blog, and thanks to Vincent Torley for posting…

  • Adam and Eve: a tested hypothesis?

    Does genomic evidence make it scientifically impossible that the human lineage could have ever passed through a population bottleneck of just two individuals? This is a question I am asked semi-frequently by religious friends. With my current understanding of the genetic evidence, I can’t state categorically that it’s impossible. In this view, I find I differ…

  • “Abundant bioactivity” of random DNA sequences?

    This blog was written for the Nature Ecology and Evolution Community where it is posted here. Probing the claims of a recent study Readers of this blog will be aware of the recent Nature Ecology and Evolution paper entitled “Random sequences are an abundant source of bioactive RNAs or peptides”. Rafik Neme, the first author,…

  • The evolutionary mystery of orphan genes

    Every newly sequenced genome contains genes with no traceable evolutionary descent – the ash genome was no exception This week in Nature I and my co-authors published the ash tree genome. Within it we found 38,852 protein-coding genes. Of these one quarter (9,604) were unique to ash. On the basis of our research so far,…

  • Ash tree genomics in response to ash dieback

    The ash tree genome project published in Nature today began, for me, with a lunchtime conversation with Andrew Leitch in the SCR bar at Queen Mary University of London in early November 2012. Ash dieback had been found in natural woodland in England for in late October. Such was the seriousness of the likely environmental…

  • Telegraph article: British woodlands need diversity from around the world

    This article was written for The Daily Telegraph and is published online here. Foreign tree species are needed to help preserve Britain’s woodlands from disease, argues Dr Richard Buggs. Trees in Britain do not have enough genetic diversity to cope with a global influx of pathogens. As global trade introduces new pests and diseases, we…