Human Evolutionary Genomics

The reconstruction of the human evolutionary history is the focal point of a wide range of scientific disciplines including human biology, human genetics, medical sciences, archaeology and palaeo-anthropology.

It is essential to understand the underlying mechanisms of how humans adapt when encountering new environmental challenges (many of which can be man-made), when facing climatic changes (e.g. the last glacial maximum), or when undergoing changes in subsistence strategies (i.e. from a hunter-gatherer to a farming lifestyle).

How much of the human adaptability can be ascribed to classical biological adaptation of the organism (via natural selection) vs. general plasticity of the human physiology and vs. the ability to tackle challenges through cultural and behavioural flexibility?

Similarly, what evolutionary forces shape genes that are involved in response to the ever-present exposure to pathogens or that contribute to the risk of human disease given a particular lifestyle/environment?

In addition, uni-parental markers (mtDNA and Y-chromosome) allow the reconstruction of phylogenetic relatedness and therefore allow us to track past migrations and describe pre-(historic) expansion patterns.


Associate Professor Bastien Llamas

An integrated molecular approach to human evolution

This project aims to integrate high precision and authentic genomic, epigenomic and microbiome information from human ancient DNA samples to better understand recent human evolution.

Special focus is given to the biological impacts of rapid socio-cultural and environmental changes such as the adoption of farming, epidemics, and colonialism.

Associate Professor Bastien Llamas offers higher degree research and honours studies in the areas of epigenetics, ancient DNA, bioinformatics and genetics.

Contact Bastien

Dr Yassine Souilmi

Australian Heritage: constructing the first Aboriginal reference genome

Using DNA sequencing technologies to generate the first complete and accurate Aboriginal genomes along with maps of genomic variation around Australia, this project will integrate past and present indigenous genetic diversity from human populations around the world into a new pan-human reference genome.

The aim is to understand global human genomic variants and provide a range of new targets relevant to medical biology. Building on these variants, it will significantly improve our knowledge of human genetic history and its consequences in the modern day.

Contact Yassine

Photo: Dollar Bin CC BY-NC 2.0

Dr Ray Tobler

Investigating the peopling of Sahul (the landmass formerly connecting Australia with New Guinea)

Much research is being done on the Pleistocene continent of Sahul, and the human evolutionary team at ACAD is investigating genetic records to better understand the admixture and adaptation to certain climatic environments via two major projects below:  


Dr Christian Huber

Palaeo-population genomics: Studying adaptation using ancient human DNA

This project applies state of the art population and quantitative genetic techniques to a powerful new database of ancient human genomes - spanning from hunter-gatherers and early farmers through to the Middle Ages - to build the first detailed spatio-temporal portrait of human genetic adaptation through time. This record will capture the major socio-cultural transitions in human history, and reveal the genetic and environmental drivers that have shaped modern human genetic diversity and pathology.

Contact Christian 

 Photo: Courtesy Dr Wolfgang Haak