Atlas of human genetic history reveals likely genetic impacts of historical events
The study, published this week in Science, is the first to simultaneously identify, date and characterise genetic mixing between populations. To do this, the researchers developed sophisticated statistical methods to analyse the DNA of 1490 individuals in 95 populations around the world.
"DNA really has the power to tell stories and uncover details of humanity's past," said Simon Myers of Oxford University's Department of Statistics and Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, co-senior author of the study.
|Selected admixture events. Boxes show historical events, while blobs show dates inferred using genetic data, including the statistical uncertainty around them [Credit: The Chromosome Painting Collective]|
The powerful technique, christened 'Globetrotter', provides insight into past events such as the genetic legacy of the Mongol Empire. Historical records suggest that the Hazara people of Pakistan are partially descended from Mongol warriors, and this study found clear evidence of Mongol DNA entering the population during the period of the Mongol Empire. Six other populations, from as far west as Turkey, showed similar evidence of genetic mixing with Mongols around the same time.
The team used genome data for all 1490 individuals to identify 'chunks' of DNA that were shared between individuals from different populations. Populations sharing more ancestry share more chunks, and individual chunks give clues about the underlying ancestry along chromosomes.
|This is a schematic of the admixture process [Credit: The chromosome|
As well as providing fresh insights into historical events, the new research might have implications for how DNA impacts health and disease in different populations.
Source: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft [February 13, 2014]