Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Beyond multiregional and simple out-of-Africa models of human evolution

The past half century has seen a move from a multiregionalist view of human origins to widespread acceptance that modern humans emerged in Africa. Here the authors argue that a simple out-of-Africa model is also outdated, and that the current state of the evidence favours a structured African metapopulation model of human origins.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Cartogram with resized land area representing modern human genetic diversity and colour representing Neanderthal plus Denisovan ancestry.

James Cheshire and Mark G. Thomas

Fig. 2: Different models of population history.


  1. Athreya, S. & Wu, X. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 164, 679–701 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Derevianko, A. P. Archaeol. Ethnol. Anthropol. Eurasia 39, 2–31 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Mallick, S. et al. Nature 538, 201–206 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Stringer, C. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 371, 2015.0237 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Holliday, T. W. in Vertebr Paleobiol Pa Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology (eds Hublin, J.-J., Harvati, K. & Harrison, T.) 281–297 (Springer Netherlands, 2006).

  6. Mallet, J. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 363, 2971–2986 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Eriksson, A. & Manica, A. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 13956–13960 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Ackermann, R. R., Mackay, A. & Arnold, M. L. Evol. Biol. 43, 1–11 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Harding, R. M. & McVean, G. Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 14, 667–674 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Lahr, M. M. & Foley, R. A. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 107, 137–176 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Marjoram, P. & Donnelly, P. Genetics 136, 673–683 (1994).

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Goldstein, D. B. & Chikhi, L. Annu. Rev. Genomics Hum. Genet. 3, 129–152 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Scerri, E. M. L. et al. Trends Ecol. Evol. 33, 582–594 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Rodriguez, W. et al. Heredity 121, 663–678 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Henn, B. M., Steele, T. E. & Weaver, T. D. Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 53, 148–156 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Kuhlwilm, M. et al. Nature 530, 429–433 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Hanski, I. & Gaggiotti, O. in Ecology, Genetics and Evolution of Metapopulations (eds Hanski, I. & Gaggiotti, O. E.) 3–22 (Academic Press, 2004).

  18. Powell, A., Shennan, S. & Thomas, M. G. Science 324, 1298–1301 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Henrich, J. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, E6724–E6725 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Klein, R. G. Evol. Anthropol. 28, 179–188 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Harvati, K. et al. Nature 571, 500–504 (2019).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Gastner, M. T. & Newman, M. E. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 7499–7504 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank J. Cheshire for generating Fig. 1, and M. O’Reilly and C. Pantiru for Fig. 2 design. We also thank C. Stringer and H. Groucutt for comments on the manuscript. E.M.L.S.’s work was supported by a Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions Fellowship and the Max Planck Society. M.G.T. is supported by a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship (grant 100719/Z/12/Z, ‘Human adaptation to changing diet and infectious disease loads, from the origins of agriculture to the present’). L.C. is supported by the French Laboratory of Excellence project ‘TULIP’ of the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-10-LABX-41; ANR-11-IDEX-0002-02), the LIA BEEG-B (Laboratoire International Associé—Bioinformatics, Ecology, Evolution, Genomics and Behaviour) between the CNRS and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, the ANR Investissement d’Avenir grant (CEBA: ANR-10-LABX-25-01) and the FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) through the INFRAGECO and DISPO projects (Biodiversa/0003/2015 and PTDC-BIA-EVL/30815/2017).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eleanor M. L. Scerri.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Scerri, E.M.L., Chikhi, L. & Thomas, M.G. Beyond multiregional and simple out-of-Africa models of human evolution. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 1370–1372 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing