Genetic Chaos

Friday, May 07, 2004

Mitochondrial DNA Analysis in Aruba: Strong Maternal Ancestry of Closely Related Amerindians and Implications for the Peopling of Northwestern Venezuela

The continental origin of human mtDNA can be identified by its haplogroup determination through restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis. Hair root samples from 16 Aruban informed volunteers were analyzed by this method. Thirteen samples had mtDNAs of Amerindian origin and the remainder had their origin in sub-Saharan Africa; thus suggesting a substantial Amerindian maternal ancestry in Arubans, and helping explain the high incidence of health-related conditions common in Amerindian populations. Nine of the thirteen Amerindian mtDNAs belonged to haplogroup D, suggesting that despite intense Indian population movements through historical times, most of the mtDNAs shared a recent common origin. Our results, combined with the pre- and post-Columbian history of Aruba and northwestern Venezuela, lead us to hypothesize that the frequency of haplogroup D mtDNAs should be high in the Caquetıo tribe of coastal Falcon in Venezuela and at least moderate in the Guajiro Indians of eastern Colombia. In addition, if the native Aruban Indians contributed substantially to the current mtDNA pool of Arubans despite the repeated historical deportation events that presumably removed the complete populations from the island, they must also have possessed haplogroup D mtDNAs in high frequency. Our results do not rule out an origin for the Amerinds of northwestern Venezuela in ancient Amazonian ceramic cultures.

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