|20 May 2011
North America settled by a handful of people
A new study of DNA patterns throughout the world suggests that North America was originally populated by no more than 70 people. Most experts agree that, around 14,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, a group of humans crossed the land bridge that connected what is now Siberia in Russia with Alaska, but new research suggests just how small that group was.
Up to now DNA analyses of this migration had looked at a particular gene, using estimates and academic assumptions on constant population sizes over time. The new study, by Professor Jody Hey of Rutgers University (USA), came at the subject from a different angle - looking at nine genomic regions to account for variations in single genes, and assuming that sizes of founding populations changed over time.
In his words, "The beauty of the new methodology is that it uses actual DNA sequences collected from Asian peoples and Native Americans." Professor Hey was quoted in Live Science as saying his method favoured "actual genetic data over estimates used in previous calculations".
His work focused on the genetics of people who spoke Amerind - one of three main language groups in North America, and indicative of the earliest migrants who went on to populate the Americas. The professor's study is among a series of new findings challenging long-held views about the history and growth of the Americas.
Edited from Mail Online (9 May 2011)
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