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23 January 2021
DNA reveals Asian migration and plague

Genomic data from the remains of 40 individuals in northeastern Asia reveals the region has a complex history of migrations.
     Around 8300 years ago there was a migratory event discernible both east and west of Lake Baikal, but there were also events specific for each of the two areas. Evidence for recurrent migrations and intense mobility west of the lake contrasts with thousands of years of continuity with limited mobility to the east - markedly different patterns of demographic change in one of the world's least populated regions.
     The study also provides clues to the history of the Palaeo-Inuit groups who inhabited northern Greenland and Canada; it has been suspected that a cultural group in the Baikal area played a part in the early history of Palaeo-Inuits. Analyses of the 6000-year-old remains of an individual associated with the culture show an association to a roughly 4,000-year-old individual on Greenland - the first genetic evidence of a link between a Neolithic period human group in Yakutia and the later Palaeo-Inuit groups.
     One individual dated to about 3800 years ago from the Lena river basin east of the lake carried DNA from Yersinia pestis - the bacteria which causes plague - as did an individual from west of the lake dated to around 4400 years ago. Judging from the genomic data, the population west of the lake seems to have decreased in size around 4400 years ago - possible evidence a prehistoric plague, and potentially supporting an origin for the plague in Europe rather than Asia.

Edited from EuekAlert! (7 January 2021)

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