Genetic Chaos

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Diversity and Age of the Four Major mtDNA Haplogroups, and Their Implications for the Peopling of the New World

Despite considerable investigation, two main questions on the origin of Native Americans remain the topic of intense debate-namely, the number and time of the migration(s) into the Americas. Using the 720 available Amerindian mtDNA control-region sequences, we reanalyzed the nucleotide diversity found within each of the four major mtDNA haplogroups (AD) thought to have been present in the colonization of the New World. We first verified whether the within-haplogroup sequence diversity could be used as a measure of the haplogroup's age. The pattern of shared polymorphism, the mismatch distribution, the phylogenetic trees, the value of Tajima's D, and the computer simulations all suggested that the four haplogroups underwent a bottleneck followed by a large population expansion. The four haplogroup diversities were very similar to each other, offering a strong support for their single origin. They suggested that the beginning of the Native Americans' ancestral-population differentiation occurred ~30,000-40,000 years before the present (ybp), with a 95%-confidence-interval lower bound of ~25,000 ybp. These values are in good agreement with the New World settlement model that we have presented elsewhere, extending the results initially found for haplogroup A to the three other major groups of mtDNA sequences found in the Americas. These results put the peopling of the Americas clearly in an early, pre-Clovis time frame.

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