Welcome to the Henn Lab

for Human Population Genetics at UC Davis

Over twenty-five years ago, geneticists sequenced mitochondrial DNA from a diverse sample of human populations and hypothesized that all humans have a common origin in Africa 200,000 years ago.  The broad outlines of this hypothesis remain remarkably unaltered, but many details of our African origin continue to be elusive.  After decades of advances in human genetics, we are no longer data limited (either in terms of samples or genomic loci) but there is little consensus on most key issues. Our lab specializes in testing different models underlying the origin of modern humans. For example, was there a single ancestral population or multiple ancestral populations? Are there unique genetic adaptations that facilitated population expansion? What is the genetic architecture of skin pigmentation, height or other characteristics in different humans groups? We characterize patterns of genetic diversity across Africa, explore the complex history of southern African KhoeSan groups and elucidate evolutionary adaptations to African environments. The Henn Lab works with scientists in Africa, indigenous communities, archaeologists and paleoanthropologists to test genetic models, and together, suggest directions for future research.