Inferring the Ancestry of Everyone

Plot of ancestors coloured by time
A plot of ancestral DNA lengths and relationships from an evolutionary simulation of 7 current-day individuals (black lines). The closer to the red end of the spectrum, the older the ancestor. Upwards arrows show the immediate ancestor of a length of DNA

It’s been a long while since I posted anything on this blog. That’s mainly because I’m now helping with fascinating work at Oxford’s Big Data Institute, which promises to re-write some of the foundations of evolutionary biology. Together with coding on the OneZoom tree of life project, it’s what has been taking up most of my research time.

The Big Data research involves two major ideas. The first is that an evolutionary approach can be used to compress genetic data by many orders of magnitude. The second is that inferring ancestors of pieces of DNA in the past can allow us to reconstruct evolutionary history across millions of genomes. These two ideas turn out to be intimately linked … Continue reading