Interviewee: Michael Hammer.
Evolutionary geneticist Michael Hammer speaks about methods of measuring a population's age by the mutations in its individuals.
(DNAi Location: Applications > Human origins > Gene genealogy > A molecular clock? > Measuring age by mutation)
At some level the amount of diversity we see is proportional to time. There are a couple of factors that control the amount of variation we see in a population. That's the size of the population, so you can imagine if the population is larger it will contain more diversity. And the amount of time that diversity has been allowed to accumulate. Diversity accumulates through the process of mutation. Mutation happens through the generations. So a population that was just born yesterday will have very little diversity. Populations that have been around for a long time, because of the mutational process, will have more diversity, and populations that are larger will carry more diversity than populations that are smaller, generally. So we can try and get an estimate of how long the population's been evolving by correlating the amount of variation that we see with the mutation rate.
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