April 01, 2005

Native American mtDNA spread along rivers and coasts

American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Early View)

Rapid deployment of the five founding Amerind mtDNA haplogroups via coastal and riverine colonization

Alan G. Fix


Numerous studies of variation in mtDNA in Amerindian populations established that four haplogroups are present throughout both North and South America. These four haplogroups (A, B, C, and D) and perhaps a fifth (X) in North America are postulated to be present in the initial founding migration to the Americas. Furthermore, studies of ancient mtDNA in North America suggested long-term regional continuity of the frequencies of these founding haplogroups. Present-day tribal groups possess high frequencies of private mtDNA haplotypes (variants within the major haplogroups), consistent with early establishment of local isolation of regional populations. Clearly these patterns have implications for the mode of colonization of the hemisphere. Recently, the earlier consensus among archaeologists for an initial colonization by Clovis hunters arriving through an ice-free corridor and expanding in a blitzkrieg wave was shown to be inconsistent with extensive genetic variability in Native Americans; a coastal migration route avoids this problem. The present paper demonstrates through a computer simulation model how colonization along coasts and rivers could have rapidly spread the founding lineages widely through North America.


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