FOXP2, a gene implicated in affecting speech and language, is held up as a textbook example of positive selection on a human-specific trait. But in a new paper, researchers challenge this finding. Their analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2 and revises the history of how we think humans acquired language.
“We’re interested in figuring out, on a genetic level, what makes us human,” Henn says. “This paper shows how important it is to use a diverse set of humans in studying the evolution of all of us as a species. There’s a severe Euro-centric bias in a lot of medical and other scientific studies, but we’ve found a scientific impetus for emphasizing diversity and inclusivity in data collection because it clearly yields more accurate results.”