The Peopling of the Americas as Revealed by Molecular Genetic Studies

Abstract

Molecular genetic studies of Siberian and Native American populations indicate that ancestral Native Americans originated in south‐central Siberia and entered the New World between 20 000 and 15 000 years before present (ybp), after thousands of years of isolation in Beringia. These early immigrants probably followed a coastal route into the New World, where they expanded into all continental regions. A second expansion, possibly coming from the same area of Siberia, may have entered the Americas, and genetically influenced North American populations. Beringian populations moved into northern North America after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and gave rise to Aleuts, Eskimos and Na‐Dené Indians.

Keywords: mtDNA; Y‐chromosome; Asia; Siberia; migrations

Figure 1.

A schematic diagram of Greenberg's classification of Native American languages.

Figure 2.

Hypothesized migrations to the New World. Reproduced with permission from Dixon EJ (1999). Bones, Boats and Bison: Archeology and the First Colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Figure 3.

Schematic illustration of maternal gene flow in and out of Beringia. Colours of the arrows correspond to approximate timing of the events and are decoded in the coloured time‐bar. The initial peopling of Berinigia (depicted in light yellow) was followed by a standstill after which the ancestors of the Native Americans spread swiftly all over the New World whereas some of the Beringian maternal lineages, such as C1a, spread westwards. More recent (shown in green) genetic exchange is manifested by back‐migration of A2a into Siberia and the spread of D2a into northeastern America that post‐dated the initial peopling of the New World. Reproduced from Tamm et al., .

Figure 4.

Distribution of frequencies of private alleles (with frequency of 2% or above) in the Human Genome Diversity Panel (HGDP) among 9346 alleles at 783 microsatellites studied by Rosenberg et al.. Inset: Frequency distribution of 9RA (represented by shaded area) at D9S1120 by population in Asia and the Americas. Numbers next to pie charts refer to the populations analysed: 1=Aleuts; 2=Greenland Inuits; 3=Apache; 4=Dogrib; 5=Cherokee; 6=Chippewa (Mille Lacs); 7=Huichol; 8=Mixtec; 9=Northenr Paiute; 10=Sioux (Sisseton/Wahpeton); 11=Seri; 12=Jemex; 13=Creek; 14=Colombian; 15=Karitiana; 16=Surui; 17=Maya; 18=Pima; 19=Chukchi; 20=Koryaks; 21=Evenk; 22=Southern Altai; 23=Northern Altai; 24=Altai Kazakhs; 25=Mongolia; 26=Yakut; 27=Han; 28=Han (North China); 29=Dai; 30=Daur; 31=Hezhen; 32=Lahu; 33=Miao; 34=Oroqen; 35=She; 36=Tujia; 37=Tu; 38=Xibo; 39=Yi; 40=Mongolia; 41=Naxi; 42=Uygur; 43=Cambodian and 44=Japanese. Reproduced from Schroeder et al., .

Figure 5.

A diagram of evolutionary forces that shaped the genetic structure of Y‐chromosome variability in South America. Circle sizes roughly indicate the relative effective sizes of the represented populations. Arrow sizes denote gene‐flow levels. Reproduced with permission from Tarazona‐Santos et al., , Copyright Elsevier.

Figure 6.

A map of the North American circumpolar region, showing schematically possible source locations of three Arctic cultures and their supposed migration routes. Actual migration routes are not fully known, but are likely to have traced coastlines of Alaskan, Canadian and Greenland landmasses. Reprinted from Helgason et al., , by permission of Wiley‐Liss, Inc, a subsidiary of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Further Reading

Bonnichsen R, Lepper B and Steele DG et al. (eds) (2006) Paleoamerican Origins: Beyond Clovis. College Station: Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A & M University.

Clark GA, Barton CM, Yesner D and Pearson G (eds) (2004) The Settlement of the American Continents: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Human Biogeography. Tuscon: Arizona State University Press.

Crawford MH (1998) The Origins of Native Americans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dixon EJ (1999) Bones, Boats and Bison: Archeology and the First Colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Fagan BM (2000) Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent. New York: Thames & Hudson.

Fitzhugh WW and Crowell A (1988) Crossroads of the Continents. Baltimore: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Jablonski NG (ed.) (2002) The First Americans: The Pleistocene Colonization of the New World. San Francisco: California University Press.

Madsen D (ed.) (2004) Entering America: Northeast Asia and Beringia Before the Last Glacial Maximum. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

Mann CC (2005) 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Salzano FM and Callegari‐Jacques SM (1988) South American Indians: A Case Study in Evolution. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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Schurr, Theodore G(Jul 2008) The Peopling of the Americas as Revealed by Molecular Genetic Studies. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020821]