Genetic Chaos

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Evidence for Prehistoric Population Movement: The Numic Expansion

The mitochondrial DNA of modern Native Americans has been shown to fall into one of at least five haplogroups (A, B, C, D, or X) whose frequencies differ among tribal groups. The frequencies of these five haplogroups in a collection of ancient individuals from Western Nevada dating to between approximately 350-9,200 years BP were determined. These data were used to test the hypothesis, supported by archaeological and linguistic data, that the current inhabitants of the Great Basin, the Numic speakers, are recent immigrants into the area who replaced the previous non-Numic inhabitants. The frequency distributions of haplogroups in the ancient and modern Native Americans differed significantly, suggesting that there is a genetic discontinuity between the ancient inhabitants and the modern Numic speakers, providing further support for the Recent Numic Expansion hypothesis. The distribution of mitochondrial haplogroups of the ancient inhabitants of the Great Basin is most similar to those of some of the modern Native American inhabitants of California.

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