November 18, 2015

Two more Denisovans (Sawyer, Renaud et al. 2015)

PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1519905112

Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences from two Denisovan individuals

Susanna Sawyer, Gabriel Renaud et al.

Denisovans, a sister group of Neandertals, have been described on the basis of a nuclear genome sequence from a finger phalanx (Denisova 3) found in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains. The only other Denisovan specimen described to date is a molar (Denisova 4) found at the same site. This tooth carries a mtDNA sequence similar to that of Denisova 3. Here we present nuclear DNA sequences from Denisova 4 and a morphological description, as well as mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data, from another molar (Denisova 8) found in Denisova Cave in 2010. This new molar is similar to Denisova 4 in being very large and lacking traits typical of Neandertals and modern humans. Nuclear DNA sequences from the two molars form a clade with Denisova 3. The mtDNA of Denisova 8 is more diverged and has accumulated fewer substitutions than the mtDNAs of the other two specimens, suggesting Denisovans were present in the region over an extended period. The nuclear DNA sequence diversity among the three Denisovans is comparable to that among six Neandertals, but lower than that among present-day humans.


November 16, 2015

West_Asian in the flesh (hunter-gatherers from Georgia) (Jones et al. 2015)

Years ago, I detected the presence of a West_Asian genetic component (with dual modes in "Caucasus" and "Gedrosia") whose origins I placed in the "highlands of West Asia" and which I proposed spread into Europe post-5kya with Indo-European languages.

Earlier this year, the study by Haak et al. showed that steppe invaders after 5kya brought into Europe a 50/50 mix of "Eastern European Hunter-Gatherer" (EHG) ancestry/An unknown population from the Near East/Caucasus. The "unknown population" was most similar to Caucasians/Near Easterners like Armenians but did not correspond to any ancient sample.

A new paper in Nature Communications by Jones et al. finds this "missing link" in the flesh in Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic hunter-gatherers from Georgia which they call "Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers" (CHG). From the paper:
The separation between CHG and both EF and WHG ended during the Early Bronze Age when a major ancestral component linked to CHG was carried west by migrating herders from the Eurasian Steppe. The foundation group for this seismic change was the Yamnaya, who we estimate to owe half of their ancestry to CHG-linked sources.
The authors also make the connection to South Asia:
In modern populations, the impact of CHG also stretches beyond Europe to the east. Central and South Asian populations received genetic influx from CHG (or a population close to them), as shown by a prominent CHG component in ADMIXTURE (Supplementary Fig. 5; Supplementary Note 9) and admixture f3-statistics, which show many samples as a mix of CHG and another South Asian population (Fig. 4b; Supplementary Table 9).
Also of interest:
Both Georgian hunter-gatherer samples were assigned to haplogroup J with Kotias belonging to the subhaplogroup J2a (see methods).
The paper is open access, so go ahead and read it for other details.

Nature Communications 6, Article number: 8912 doi:10.1038/ncomms9912

Upper Palaeolithic genomes reveal deep roots of modern Eurasians

Eppie R. Jones et al.

We extend the scope of European palaeogenomics by sequencing the genomes of Late Upper Palaeolithic (13,300 years old, 1.4-fold coverage) and Mesolithic (9,700 years old, 15.4-fold) males from western Georgia in the Caucasus and a Late Upper Palaeolithic (13,700 years old, 9.5-fold) male from Switzerland. While we detect Late Palaeolithic–Mesolithic genomic continuity in both regions, we find that Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG) belong to a distinct ancient clade that split from western hunter-gatherers ~45 kya, shortly after the expansion of anatomically modern humans into Europe and from the ancestors of Neolithic farmers ~25 kya, around the Last Glacial Maximum. CHG genomes significantly contributed to the Yamnaya steppe herders who migrated into Europe ~3,000 BC, supporting a formative Caucasus influence on this important Early Bronze age culture. CHG left their imprint on modern populations from the Caucasus and also central and south Asia possibly marking the arrival of Indo-Aryan languages.


November 11, 2015

Genetic structure of 1,272 Italians

From the paper:
The distribution of the pairwise Fst distances between all population pairs is shown in Supplementary Table S3. The genetic distance between Southern and Northern Italians (Fst=0.0013) is comparable to that between individuals living in different political units (ie, Iberians-Romanians Fst=0.0011; British-French Fst=0.0007), and, interestingly, in >50% of all the possible pairwise comparisons within Europe (Supplementary Figure S7).
European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication 11 November 2015; doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2015.233

The Italian genome reflects the history of Europe and the Mediterranean basin

Giovanni Fiorito et al.

Recent scientific literature has highlighted the relevance of population genetic studies both for disease association mapping in admixed populations and for understanding the history of human migrations. Deeper insight into the history of the Italian population is critical for understanding the peopling of Europe. Because of its crucial position at the centre of the Mediterranean basin, the Italian peninsula has experienced a complex history of colonization and migration whose genetic signatures are still present in contemporary Italians. In this study, we investigated genomic variation in the Italian population using 2.5 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms in a sample of more than 300 unrelated Italian subjects with well-defined geographical origins. We combined several analytical approaches to interpret genome-wide data on 1272 individuals from European, Middle Eastern, and North African populations. We detected three major ancestral components contributing different proportions across the Italian peninsula, and signatures of continuous gene flow within Italy, which have produced remarkable genetic variability among contemporary Italians. In addition, we have extracted novel details about the Italian population’s ancestry, identifying the genetic signatures of major historical events in Europe and the Mediterranean basin from the Neolithic (e.g., peopling of Sardinia) to recent times (e.g., ‘barbarian invasion’ of Northern and Central Italy). These results are valuable for further genetic, epidemiological and forensic studies in Italy and in Europe.


November 04, 2015

Selection against Neandertal deleterious alleles

Sampled Neandertals (from Europe, the Caucasus, and Siberia) certainly had lower effective population size than living humans, but I wonder what the comparison would be between ancient tribes of modern humans and Neandertals in the Near East where admixture presumably took place.


The Genetic Cost of Neanderthal Introgression

Kelley Harris, Rasmus Nielsen

Approximately 2-4% of the human genome is in non-Africans comprised of DNA intro- gressed from Neanderthals. Recent studies have shown that there is a paucity of introgressed DNA around functional regions, presumably caused by selection after introgression. This observation has been suggested to be a possible consequence of the accumulation of a large amount of Dobzhansky-Muller incompatibilities, i.e. epistatic effects between human and Neanderthal specific mutations, since the divergence of humans and Neanderthals approx. 400-600 kya. However, using previously published estimates of inbreeding in Neanderthals, and of the distribution of fitness effects from human protein coding genes, we show that the average Neanderthal would have had at least 40% lower fitness than the average human due to higher levels of inbreeding and an increased mutational load, regardless of the dominance coefficients of new mutations. Using simulations, we show that under the assumption of additive dominance effects, early Neanderthal/human hybrids would have experienced strong negative selection, though not so strong that it would prevent Neanderthal DNA from entering the human population. In fact, the increased mutational load in Neanderthals predicts the observed reduction in Neanderthal introgressed segments around protein coding genes, without any need to invoke epistasis. The simulations also predict that there is a residual Neanderthal derived mutational load in non-African humans, leading to an average fitness reduction of at least 0.5%. Although there has been much previous debate about the effects of the out-of-Africa bottleneck on mutational loads in non-Africans, the significant deleterious effects of Neanderthal introgression have hitherto been left out of this discussion, but might be just as important for understanding fitness differences among human populations. We also show that if deleterious mutations are recessive, the Neanderthal admixture fraction would gradually increase over time due to selection for Neanderthal haplotypes that mask human deleterious mutations in the heterozygous state. This effect of dominance heterosis might partially explain why adaptive introgression appears to be widespread in nature.



The Strength of Selection Against Neanderthal Introgression

Ivan Juric, Simon Aeschbacher, Graham Coop

Hybridization between humans and Neanderthals has resulted in a low level of Neanderthal ancestry scattered across the genomes of many modern-day humans. After hybridization, on average, selection appears to have removed Neanderthal alleles from the human population. Quantifying the strength and causes of this selection against Neanderthal ancestry is key to understanding our relationship to Neanderthals and, more broadly, how populations remain distinct after secondary contact. Here, we develop a novel method for estimating the genome-wide average strength of selection and the density of selected sites using estimates of Neanderthal allele frequency along the genomes of modern-day humans. We confirm that East Asians had somewhat higher initial levels of Neanderthal ancestry than Europeans even after accounting for selection. We find that there are systematically lower levels of initial introgression on the X chromosome, a finding consistent with a strong sex bias in the initial matings between the populations. We find that the bulk of purifying selection against Neanderthal ancestry is best understood as acting on many weakly deleterious alleles. We propose that the majority of these alleles were effectively neutral-and segregating at high frequency-in Neanderthals, but became selected against after entering human populations of much larger effective size. While individually of small effect, these alleles potentially imposed a heavy genetic load on the early-generation human-Neanderthal hybrids. This work suggests that differences in effective population size may play a far more important role in shaping levels of introgression than previously thought.


October 22, 2015

Bronze Age Plague

This paper used the same data as the Allentoft et al. paper, but instead of focusing on the human DNA recovered from ancient Eurasians, it went looking for interesting stuff in the non-human DNA (the stuff that is usually thrown away).

The result: 2,800-5,000 year old Yersinia pestis from Europe to the Altai. It will be cool to look at even older remains than the Bronze Age, but this already pushes the date for plague by a couple thousand years, and implicates steppe people in its earliest spread.

Cell Volume 163, Issue 3, p571–582, 22 October 2015

Early Divergent Strains of Yersinia pestis in Eurasia 5,000 Years Ago

Simon Rasmussen18, Morten Erik Allentoft18, Kasper Nielsen, Ludovic Orlando, Martin Sikora, Karl-Göran Sjögren, Anders Gorm Pedersen, Mikkel Schubert, Alex Van Dam, Christian Moliin Outzen Kapel, Henrik Bjørn Nielsen, Søren Brunak, Pavel Avetisyan, Andrey Epimakhov, Mikhail Viktorovich Khalyapin, Artak Gnuni, Aivar Kriiska, Irena Lasak, Mait Metspalu, Vyacheslav Moiseyev, Andrei Gromov, Dalia Pokutta, Lehti Saag, Liivi Varul, Levon Yepiskoposyan, Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén, Robert A. Foley, Marta Mirazón Lahr, Rasmus Nielsen, Kristian Kristiansen, Eske Willerslev

The bacteria Yersinia pestis is the etiological agent of plague and has caused human pandemics with millions of deaths in historic times. How and when it originated remains contentious. Here, we report the oldest direct evidence of Yersinia pestis identified by ancient DNA in human teeth from Asia and Europe dating from 2,800 to 5,000 years ago. By sequencing the genomes, we find that these ancient plague strains are basal to all known Yersinia pestis. We find the origins of the Yersinia pestis lineage to be at least two times older than previous estimates. We also identify a temporal sequence of genetic changes that lead to increased virulence and the emergence of the bubonic plague. Our results show that plague infection was endemic in the human populations of Eurasia at least 3,000 years before any historical recordings of pandemics.


October 15, 2015

Modern humans in China ~80,000 years ago (?)

Another (?)-worthy paper has just appeared in Nature in the heels of the African ancient genome paper. Time will tell how these worldview-altering discoveries will change the story of Mankind, and a degree of skepticism is warranted. In the view I've held for a few years, modern humans expanded to Arabia before 100 thousand years ago, started leaving it 70 thousand years ago as the ecological situation worsened due to desertification and broke through the "Neandertal barrier" between 70-50 thousand years ago when they developed the skills and technology to overcome them.

The new paper claims that modern humans were in China 80 thousand years ago and came to Europe much later because Neandertal represented a barrier to successful entry to Europe. This begs the question of how they reached China without encountering Neandertals, as Neandertals were also in West Asia where -presumably- they passed through to get to China. A coastal route to south China would explain away this problem, but the coastal migration is usually envisioned much later, at around 60 thousand years ago. On top of that, how did Chinese end up having equal (or more) levels of Neandertals admixture if modern humans first went to China and later moved west and successfully outcompeted the Neandertals. How were they able to do so eventually? (There is no evidence that the kind of advantages associated with behavioral modernity first emerged in East Asia). It's possible that there were 80 thousand year-old modern humans in China (just as there were 100 thousand year-old modern humans in Israel), but that the later East Asians are not descended from them.

One would think that science would present an increasingly reasonable and consistent picture of the past, but it seems that we're a very long way from the point where the dust settles and the puzzle pieces start falling into place.

Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature15696

The earliest unequivocally modern humans in southern China

Wu Liu, María Martinón-Torres, Yan-jun Cai, Song Xing, Hao-wen Tong, Shu-wen Pei, Mark Jan Sier, Xiao-hong Wu, R. Lawrence Edwards, Hai Cheng, Yi-yuan Li, Xiong-xin Yang, José María Bermúdez de Castro & Xiu-jie Wu

The hominin record from southern Asia for the early Late Pleistocene epoch is scarce. Well-dated and well-preserved fossils older than ~45,000 years that can be unequivocally attributed to Homo sapiens are lacking1, 2, 3, 4. Here we present evidence from the newly excavated Fuyan Cave in Daoxian (southern China). This site has provided 47 human teeth dated to more than 80,000 years old, and with an inferred maximum age of 120,000 years. The morphological and metric assessment of this sample supports its unequivocal assignment to H. sapiens. The Daoxian sample is more derived than any other anatomically modern humans, resembling middle-to-late Late Pleistocene specimens and even contemporary humans. Our study shows that fully modern morphologies were present in southern China 30,000–70,000 years earlier than in the Levant and Europe5, 6, 7. Our data fill a chronological and geographical gap that is relevant for understanding when H. sapiens first appeared in southern Asia. The Daoxian teeth also support the hypothesis that during the same period, southern China was inhabited by more derived populations than central and northern China. This evidence is important for the study of dispersal routes of modern humans. Finally, our results are relevant to exploring the reasons for the relatively late entry of H. sapiens into Europe. Some studies have investigated how the competition with H. sapiens may have caused Neanderthals’ extinction (see ref. 8 and references therein). Notably, although fully modern humans were already present in southern China at least as early as ~80,000 years ago, there is no evidence that they entered Europe before ~45,000 years ago. This could indicate that H. neanderthalensis was indeed an additional ecological barrier for modern humans, who could only enter Europe when the demise of Neanderthals had already started.


October 08, 2015

West Eurasian admixture throughout Africa (?)

In 2012, I wrote:
It is no longer tenable to view West Eurasian back-migrations as limited events that affected only North and East Africa: their effects are clearly evident throughout Africa, having affected different populations to a different extent.
A new paper in Science seems to confirm West Eurasian admixture related to Early Neolithic farmers throughout Africa, including the Yoruba, and Mbuti. I haven't read the paper yet, but it would be a striking discovery if confirmed.

Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2879

Ancient Ethiopian genome reveals extensive Eurasian admixture throughout the African continent

M. Gallego Llorente et al

Characterizing genetic diversity in Africa is a crucial step for most analyses reconstructing the evolutionary history of anatomically modern humans. However, historic migrations from Eurasia into Africa have affected many contemporary populations, confounding inferences. Here, we present a 12.5x coverage ancient genome of an Ethiopian male (‘Mota’) who lived approximately 4,500 years ago. We use this genome to demonstrate that the Eurasian backflow into Africa came from a population closely related to Early Neolithic farmers, who had colonized Europe 4,000 years earlier. The extent of this backflow was much greater than previously reported, reaching all the way to Central, West and Southern Africa, affecting even populations such as Yoruba and Mbuti, previously thought to be relatively unadmixed, who harbor 6-7% Eurasian ancestry.


September 19, 2015

Recent admixture in contemporary West Eurasians

After applying Globetrotter to the world and to the British, a new study in Current Biology applies to the intermediately-sized region of West Eurasia. This is an open-access article, so go ahead and read it.

Current Biology DOI:

The Role of Recent Admixture in Forming the Contemporary West Eurasian Genomic Landscape
George B.J. Busby et al.

Over the past few years, studies of DNA isolated from human fossils and archaeological remains have generated considerable novel insight into the history of our species. Several landmark papers have described the genomes of ancient humans across West Eurasia, demonstrating the presence of large-scale, dynamic population movements over the last 10,000 years, such that ancestry across present-day populations is likely to be a mixture of several ancient groups [ 1–7 ]. While these efforts are bringing the details of West Eurasian prehistory into increasing focus, studies aimed at understanding the processes behind the generation of the current West Eurasian genetic landscape have been limited by the number of populations sampled or have been either too regional or global in their outlook [ 8–11 ]. Here, using recently described haplotype-based techniques [ 11 ], we present the results of a systematic survey of recent admixture history across Western Eurasia and show that admixture is a universal property across almost all groups. Admixture in all regions except North Western Europe involved the influx of genetic material from outside of West Eurasia, which we date to specific time periods. Within Northern, Western, and Central Europe, admixture tended to occur between local groups during the period 300 to 1200 CE. Comparisons of the genetic profiles of West Eurasians before and after admixture show that population movements within the last 1,500 years are likely to have maintained differentiation among groups. Our analysis provides a timeline of the gene flow events that have generated the contemporary genetic landscape of West Eurasia.


September 18, 2015

Political (non) diversity in social psychology

Behavioral and Brain Sciences / Volume 38 / January 2015, e130 (13 pages)

Political diversity will improve social psychological science

José L. Duartea1, Jarret T. Crawforda2, Charlotta Sterna3, Jonathan Haidta4, Lee Jussima5 and Philip E. Tetlocka6

Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity – particularly diversity of viewpoints – for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity. This article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims: (1) Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years. (2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike. (3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority's thinking. (4) The underrepresentation of non-liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination. We close with recommendations for increasing political diversity in social psychology.


August 13, 2015

Rethinking the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa

An excellent review which -among its other graces- demolishes the view that mtDNA haplogroup L3 provides a terminus post quem of 70 thousand years for the Out-of-Africa expansion, a question I've discussed in this blog before.

I think the evidence is overwhelming at this point that there were modern humans outside Africa before 100,000 years ago. The argument that they were a  failed expansion is shoddy and is based, as far as I can tell on things like the age of L3, the assumption that Y-chromosome haplogroup E is native to Africa and not derived from back-to-Africa migrants, the assumption that Out-of-Africa coincided with the Upper Paleolithic cultural efflorescence (disproven by the earlier dating of Neandertal admixture), or the failed hypothesis of a coastal route Out of Africa 60 thousand years ago that seems to be repeated in inverse proportion to the evidence for it. The halving of the human autosomal mutation rate relative to what was inferred before has certainly not helped either.

Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews Volume 24, Issue 4, pages 149–164, July/August 2015

Rethinking the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa

Huw S. Groucutt, Michael D. Petraglia, Geoff Bailey, Eleanor M. L. Scerri, Ash Parton, Laine Clark-Balzan, Richard P. Jennings, Laura Lewis, James Blinkhorn, Nick A. Drake, Paul S. Breeze, Robyn H. Inglis, Maud H. Devès, Matthew Meredith-Williams, Nicole Boivin, Mark G. Thomas andAylwyn Scally

Current fossil, genetic, and archeological data indicate that Homo sapiens originated in Africa in the late Middle Pleistocene. By the end of the Late Pleistocene, our species was distributed across every continent except Antarctica, setting the foundations for the subsequent demographic and cultural changes of the Holocene. The intervening processes remain intensely debated and a key theme in hominin evolutionary studies. We review archeological, fossil, environmental, and genetic data to evaluate the current state of knowledge on the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa. The emerging picture of the dispersal process suggests dynamic behavioral variability, complex interactions between populations, and an intricate genetic and cultural legacy. This evolutionary and historical complexity challenges simple narratives and suggests that hybrid models and the testing of explicit hypotheses are required to understand the expansion of Homo sapiens into Eurasia.

Link and here

August 12, 2015

Mesolithic monolith from Sicilian Channel

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports Volume 3, September 2015, Pages 398–407

A submerged monolith in the Sicilian Channel (central Mediterranean Sea): Evidence for Mesolithic human activity

Emanuele Lodolo, Zvi Ben-Avraham

The ancient geography of the Mediterranean Basin was profoundly changed by the increase in sea level following the Last Glacial Maximum. This global event has led to the retreat of the coastlines, especially in lowland areas and shallow shelves, such as the Sicilian Channel. The NW sector of this shelf, known as Adventure Plateau, is studded by isolated shoals mostly composed of Late Miocene carbonate rocks and by some volcanic edifices. These shoals, until at least the Early Holocene, formed an archipelago of several islands separated by stretches of extremely shallow sea. One of these submerged features – the Pantelleria Vecchia Bank – located 60 km south of Sicily, has been extensively surveyed using geophysical and geological methods. It is composed of two main shoals, connected seaward by a rectilinear ridge which encloses an embayment. Here we present morphological evidence, underwater observations, and results of petrographic analysis of a man-made, 12 m long monolith resting on the sea-floor of the embayment at a water depth of 40 m. It is broken into two parts, and has three regular holes: one at its end which passes through from part to part, the others in two of its sides. The monolith is composed of calcirudites of Late Pleistocene age, as determined from radiocarbon measurements conducted on several shell fragments extracted from the rock samples. The same age and composition characterize the metre-size blocks forming the rectilinear ridge. The rest of the rocks composing the shoals are mostly Tortonian limestones–sandstones, as revealed by their fossil content. Extrapolating ages from the local sea level curve, we infer that seawater inundated the inner lands at 9350 ± 200 year B.P., the upper limit which can be reasonably taken for the site abandonment. This discovery provides evidence for a significant Mesolithic human activity in the Sicilian Channel region.


August 07, 2015

Prehistoric farmers from northern Greece had lactose intolerance, brown eyes, dark skin

According to this:
Πολύ σημαντικό πρόσφατο εύρημα αποτελεί η ανάκτηση ολόκληρων γονιδιωμάτων από τρεις προϊστορικούς αγρότες, που έζησαν στη Βόρεια Ελλάδα 7.500 με 5.500 χρόνια πριν από σήμερα. Τα δεδομένα αυτά αναλύονται και αναμένεται να ρίξουν φως στις προγονικές σχέσεις των πρώτων Ευρωπαίων και να δώσουν πλήθος πληροφοριών, που συνδέονται με λειτουργικά και μορφολογικά χαρακτηριστικά. Ήδη, είναι γνωστό, ότι κάποιοι νεολιθικοί πρόγονοί μας δε μπορούσαν να πέψουν το γάλα, ήταν δηλαδή δυσανεκτικοί στη λακτόζη και είχαν καστανά μάτια και σκουρόχρωμη επιδερμίδα.
Related video:

July 26, 2015

Paleoamericans galore

Two new papers in Nature and Science add to the debate on Native American origins. The first study (in Nature) detects that some Amazonians have a few percent ancestry from a group related to Australasians, which suggests that early native Americans were not homogeneous but came in two flavors: the main one found all over the Americans and the Australasian-related one. The second study (in Science) looks at ancient "Paleoamerican"-postulated populations and finds that they don't have any particular relationship to Australasians. Thus, whatever population brought the "Paleoamerican" admixture into the Amazon, it remains to be found.

Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature14895

Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas 

Pontus Skoglund et al.

Genetic studies have consistently indicated a single common origin of Native American groups from Central and South America1, 2, 3, 4. However, some morphological studies have suggested a more complex picture, whereby the northeast Asian affinities of present-day Native Americans contrast with a distinctive morphology seen in some of the earliest American skeletons, which share traits with present-day Australasians (indigenous groups in Australia, Melanesia, and island Southeast Asia)5, 6, 7, 8. Here we analyse genome-wide data to show that some Amazonian Native Americans descend partly from a Native American founding population that carried ancestry more closely related to indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andaman Islanders than to any present-day Eurasians or Native Americans. This signature is not present to the same extent, or at all, in present-day Northern and Central Americans or in a ~12,600-year-old Clovis-associated genome, suggesting a more diverse set of founding populations of the Americas than previously accepted.


Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3884

Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans

Maanasa Raghavan1,*, Matthias Steinrücken2,3,4,*, Kelley Harris5,*, Stephan Schiffels6,*, Simon Rasmussen7,*, Michael DeGiorgio8,*, Anders Albrechtsen9,*, Cristina Valdiosera1,10,*, María C. Ávila-Arcos1,11,*, Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas1* et al.

How and when the Americas were populated remains contentious. Using ancient and modern genome-wide data, we find that the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans, including Athabascans and Amerindians, entered the Americas as a single migration wave from Siberia no earlier than 23 thousand years ago (KYA), and after no more than 8,000-year isolation period in Beringia. Following their arrival to the Americas, ancestral Native Americans diversified into two basal genetic branches around 13 KYA, one that is now dispersed across North and South America and the other is restricted to North America. Subsequent gene flow resulted in some Native Americans sharing ancestry with present-day East Asians (including Siberians) and, more distantly, Australo-Melanesians. Putative ‘Paleoamerican’ relict populations, including the historical Mexican Pericúes and South American Fuego-Patagonians, are not directly related to modern Australo-Melanesians as suggested by the Paleoamerican Model.


July 21, 2015

British origins (with ancient data)



Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon genomes from East England reveal British migration history

Stephan Schiffels, Wolfgang Haak, Pirita Paajanen, Bastien Llamas, Elizabeth Popescu, Louise Lou, Rachel Clarke, Alice Lyons, Richard Mortimer, Duncan Sayer, Chris Tyler-Smith, Alan Cooper, Richard Durbin

British population history has been shaped by a series of immigrations and internal movements, including the early Anglo-Saxon migrations following the breakdown of the Roman administration after 410CE. It remains an open question how these events affected the genetic composition of the current British population. Here, we present whole-genome sequences generated from ten ancient individuals found in archaeological excavations close to Cambridge in the East of England, ranging from 2,300 until 1,200 years before present (Iron Age to Anglo-Saxon period). We use present-day genetic data to characterize the relationship of these ancient individuals to contemporary British and other European populations. By analyzing the distribution of shared rare variants across ancient and modern individuals, we find that today’s British are more similar to the Iron Age individuals than to most of the Anglo-Saxon individuals, and estimate that the contemporary East English population derives 30% of its ancestry from Anglo-Saxon migrations, with a lower fraction in Wales and Scotland. We gain further insight with a new method, rarecoal, which fits a demographic model to the distribution of shared rare variants across a large number of samples, enabling fine scale analysis of subtle genetic differences and yielding explicit estimates of population sizes and split times. Using rarecoal we find that the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxon samples are closest to modern Danish and Dutch populations, while the Iron Age samples share ancestors with multiple Northern European populations including Britain.


July 12, 2015

Phylogeographic refinement of haplogroup E

Genome Biol Evol (2015) 7 (7): 1940-1950.

Phylogeographic Refinement and Large Scale Genotyping of Human Y Chromosome Haplogroup E Provide New Insights into the Dispersal of Early Pastoralists in the African Continent

Beniamino Trombetta et al.

Haplogroup E, defined by mutation M40, is the most common human Y chromosome clade within Africa. To increase the level of resolution of haplogroup E, we disclosed the phylogenetic relationships among 729 mutations found in 33 haplogroup DE Y-chromosomes sequenced at high coverage in previous studies. Additionally, we dissected the E-M35 subclade by genotyping 62 informative markers in 5,222 samples from 118 worldwide populations. The phylogeny of haplogroup E showed novel features compared with the previous topology, including a new basal dichotomy. Within haplogroup E-M35, we resolved all the previously known polytomies and assigned all the E-M35* chromosomes to five new different clades, all belonging to a newly identified subhaplogroup (E-V1515), which accounts for almost half of the E-M35 chromosomes from the Horn of Africa. Moreover, using a Bayesian phylogeographic analysis and a single nucleotide polymorphism-based approach we localized and dated the origin of this new lineage in the northern part of the Horn, about 12 ka. Time frames, phylogenetic structuring, and sociogeographic distribution of E-V1515 and its subclades are consistent with a multistep demic spread of pastoralism within north-eastern Africa and its subsequent diffusion to subequatorial areas. In addition, our results increase the discriminative power of the E-M35 haplogroup for use in forensic genetics through the identification of new ancestry-informative markers.