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Biotech Science

Gene Study Supports Single Bering Strait Migration 289

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "One of the most comprehensive analyses of genetic variation ever undertaken supports the theory that the ancestors of modern native peoples throughout the Americas came from a single source in East Asia across a northwest land bridge some 12,000 years ago. One particular discovery is of a 'unique genetic variant widespread in natives across both continents — suggesting that the first humans in the Americas came in a single migration or multiple waves from a single source, not in waves of migrations from different sources.' The full article is available online from PLoS."
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Gene Study Supports Single Bering Strait Migration

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  • "We examined genetic diversity and population structure in the American landmass using 678 autosomal microsatellite markers genotyped in 422 individuals representing 24 Native American populations sampled from North, Central, and South America. These data were analyzed jointly with similar data available in 54 other indigenous populations worldwide, including an additional five Native American groups. The Native American populations have lower genetic diversity and greater differentiation than populations f
  • Journey of Man (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:49PM (#21494361)
    If you haven't seen it yet, watch (or read, I suppose) "Journey of Man."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Journey_of_Man:_A_Genetic_Odyssey [wikipedia.org]
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1212_021213_journeyofman.html [nationalgeographic.com]

    It provides a great grounding in the science and methodology, and the documentary is narrated by the scientist who did much of the research (a rare treat).
    • Thanks for the link, I'll check that out. From that page, it states: " he explains how he traced the exodus of modern humans from Africa by analyzing genetic changes in DNA from the y-chromosome". I recentely read Seven Daughters Of Eve [indigo.ca] by Bryan Sykes which recounts a similar tale (Euro centric though) based on the mitochondrial DNA which we inherit from our Mothers (X chromosome).

      The author (and the scientist) also touches on the imigration of Native Americans from Asia.

  • This is interesting stuff, although from the article the issue doesn't seem to be closed completely. But even if it was a single migration event, that doesn't mean there wasn't subsequent trading contact - we know that happened on the East coast of North America long before Columbus, and it would be fascinating to see a full account of the West coast evidence. That's something I've heard rumors about but have never actually seen.
  • So does this mean that I really have Chinese people working on my lawn, not Mexicans?

    Hmmm... we might want to reconsider building that wall along the Mexican boarder. Didn't seem to work too well on the Mongolians.
  • by shoor ( 33382 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:00PM (#21494503)
    I've seen documentaries on TV about this stuff. Unfortunately, I
    can't cite sources only do this from memory. (Maybe somebody else
    can provide links/references.)

    But, as I recall, there is evidence that there was a signicantly
    different ethnic group (race?) of people here who were possibly
    wiped out by the invading ancestors of present day Native Americans.
    There was a fossil human found in the Pacific Northwest, whose
    face was reconstructed and found to resemble Patrick Stewart.
    There's been a lot of controversy as it's a very sensitive subject
    for some modern day Native Americans.

    If an earlier group of people were wiped out, the only genetic
    signatures you'd find for them would be in fossils, right?
    • So what you are saying is that Captain Picard time traveled back to the 15th century only to be killed by his great-great-great-great grandfather, thus completing the paradox?
      • So what you are saying is that Captain Picard time traveled back to the 15th century only to be killed by his great-great-great-great grandfather, thus completing the paradox?
        Wow... Seven generations in 900 years? Those Picards are seriously long-lived... I'm trying to imagine how a 120 year old Picard could get any pre-menopausal woman to have his baby...
    • I think much of that is based on carbon dating of prehistoric settlements found in various parts of North America. Some of the carbon dates appear to predate the estimated earliest migrations across the Bering strait land bridge. AFAIK, there is significant controversy as to whether the dates are correct.

      If an earlier group of people were wiped out, the only genetic signatures you'd find for them would be in fossils, right?

      If they exterminated the entire population, then yes. However, you often see e

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by northnomad ( 1194979 )
      I believe your talking about this gentleman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennewick_Man [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by thexdane ( 148152 )
      actually that is correct, there is evidence of other groups coming over here before the bering strait migration. they do come from what would become southern france. i'm sorry but i forget the name of the discovery channel show called stone age columbus [bbc.co.uk]

      the jist of the show is they followed the ice cap to north america, much in the same way the inuit do today when hunting in the arctic. they landed on the east coast and lived there and migrated around a bit.

      the cool part about the show was they showed an
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thisissilly ( 676875 )
      Also, there is evidence of early contact with Polynesia (pre-Columbus), thanks to (of all things) chicken DNA [livescience.com].
    • by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:47PM (#21495151)
      You are talking about the Kennewick Man, which is believed to be of an ethnic group that modern Native Americans descended from over the past several thousand years. The controversy was regarding its alleged caucasoid features combined with its dating before the Bering migration. IIRC the forensic artist reconstructing the face was watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, noticed some resemblance in bone structure to Capt. Picard, and more or less made the model look like that.

      It has the amazing ability to make anyone associated with it act like an asshole, as represented by white supremacist groups claiming that white people colonized the continent before the Native Americans; and Native American groups attempting to prevent research on the skull by asserting tribal affiliation despite the fact that it doesn't look like any modern Indian, and could not possibly be a former member of any existing tribe. They object to research possibly in part in fright of an invalidation of their origination claim to the continent, but also because of a general (and somewhat justified, based on Native American history) distrust of the impartiality of white man science. I am going to go out on a trollish limb here, but their passed-down "history" is unfalsifiable mythological fiction, and just because science has screwed over Indians doesn't mean they have the right to have their fake history uncritically accepted by the scientific community when it comes to Native American origins. they don't know where the skull came from, but at least scientists have the tools to find out, unlike someone just waving their hands and saying "discussion over, it's a Blackfoot and we were still here first" (or whatever.) By all accounts it was NOT a white man, but it wasn't a modern Indian either, it seems.

      If I am wrong about any of this, please correct me. But I highly recommend reading the book "Skull Wars" regarding this skull and the historical reasons for Native American distrust of scientific method with regards to Native American anthropology and history. It will likely make you angry, but you will understand more the Native American position on this even if you don't entirely agree with it. This is the position I am in now.
    • Perhaps you're referring to the Dorset [wikipedia.org] peoples? They were supposedly establised before the ancestors of the Inuit (eskimo) arrived, the Thule [wikipedia.org].

      Wiki says that the Thule referred to the Dorset as 'giants' although technically inferior to the Thule (they had no dogsleds, for example). The Thule had completely replaced the Dorset by the 15th century. It also goes on to say there were other pre-Dorset cultures but there is little information available.

      IANAGNA (I am not a geneticist nor anthropologist)

    • If you look at people from Central Asia (Persia, Kazakhstan, etc.), they resembled Europeans much more than East Asians. I'm sure some of the migration from Asia stemmed from Central Asia.
  • by stupidfoo ( 836212 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:06PM (#21494581)
    Does this kill the idea that some South Americans got here by sailing across the Pacific?
    • by mothlos ( 832302 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:25PM (#21495661)
      No, but it does suggest that the genetic evidence for this was not found in this study. Small genetic populations can easily be lost in a larger population. All this says is that the populations which survive today have markers and appropriate genetic variation to be descendants of descendants of populations in Asia.

      This doesn't explain the cultural aspects of how the move occurred or how they were culturally linked to each other and to groups outside of the Americas. This mostly reinforces what was already known: that around 15,000 years ago, there was a dramatic population increase in the Americas starting in the Pacific Northwest and moving down to South America.

      This information doesn't say anything about a land bridge or existing populations of people except to say that if there were existing populations that their genetics didn't survive to modern times in significant amounts which is suggestive of small populations which did not integrate into the new-coming population; if they existed at all.
  • by CodeShark ( 17400 )
    Very interesting articles, and no, in advance I am not a geneticist.

    What I find interesting about this article isn't in the science -- it's in the data as reported. So they gathered Native American folks together and performed some very advanced genetic analysis -- which in essence leads to the conclusion that "all folks in the group have certain genetic markers", and the closer you get to the so called "Bering land bridge" (heck, coulda been ice and canoes too....), the more genetically alike the people

    • In a knock down drag out no holds barred fight to the finish. Did we mention that the land shark has a fricken laser? We'll sell you the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge, edge edge!

      Sorry, I've been stuck in the server room for two hours watching the HVAC guys and the fan noise has obviously driven me insane.
    • by non ( 130182 )
      all modern humans (homo sapiens sapiens, as they're known) can be traced back to a single maternal ancestor via mitochondrial RNA. is that what you meant? do some research on 'Lucy'.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by CodeShark ( 17400 )
        No, not that. Just more breadth in the science that says "we believe this hypothesis is correct because it is exclusive for testable reasons x,y, and z".

        An "testable" reason, for example might be a "working with DNA from Mayan mummy #abc (IIRC the Mayans are considered a lost civilization, right?) that has been dated to X hundred years b.c. was found to have the same markers as related to the steppe people from Siberia etc." combined with "these markers are unique because...." where the "because" is fairl

    • Such as the blue eyed migrant mutt imports from Norway who arrived in 1000AD?

      I am [my ancestry is such that I'm one of those blue eyed migrant mutt imports from northern European countries who emigrated to what is now the US in the 17th and 18th centuries ].
  • by sckeener ( 137243 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:27PM (#21494879)
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2002/columbus.shtml [bbc.co.uk]

    So I guess this study conflicts with the OP....

    Stone Age Columbus - programme summary

    Who were the first people in North America? From where did they come? How did they arrive? The prehistory of the Americas has been widely studied. Over 70 years a consensus became so established that dissenters felt uneasy challenging it. Yet in 2001, genetics, anthropology and a few shards of flint combined to overturn the accepted facts and to push back one of the greatest technological changes that the Americas have ever seen by over five millennia.

    The accepted version of the first Americans starts with a flint spearhead unearthed at Clovis, New Mexico, in 1933. Dated by the mammoth skeleton it lay beside to 11,500 years ago (11.5kya), it was distinctive because it had two faces, where flakes had been knapped away from a core flint. The find sparked a wave of similar reports, all dating from around the same period. There seemed to be nothing human before Clovis. Whoever those incomers were around 9,500BC, they appeared to have had a clean start. And the Clovis point was their icon - across 48 states.

    An icon that was supremely effective: the introduction of the innovative spearpoint coincided with a mass extinction of the continent's megafauna. Not only the mammoth, but the giant armadillo, giant sloth and great black bear all disappeared soon after the Clovis point - and the hunters who used it - arrived on the scene.

    But from where? With temperatures much colder than today and substantial polar ice sheets, sea levels were much lower. Asia and America were connected by a land bridge where now there's the open water of the Bering Strait. The traditional view of American prehistory was that Clovis people travelled by land from Asia.

    This version was so accepted that few archaeologists even bothered to look for artefacts from periods before 10,000BC. But when Jim Adavasio continued to dig below the Clovis layer at his dig near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he found blades and blade cores dating back to 16,000BC. His findings were dismissed as erroneous; too astonishing to be credible. The Clovis consensus had too many reputations behind it to evaporate easily. Some archaeologists who backed Adavasio's conclusions with other similar data were accused of making radiocarbon dating errors or even of planting finds.

    Decisive evidence would have to come from an independent arena. Douglas Wallace studies mitochondrial DNA, part of the human chromosomes that is passed unchanged from mother to daughter. It only varies when mistakes occur in the replication of the genetic code. Conveniently for Wallace's work (piecing together a global history of migration of native peoples) these mistakes crop up at a quite regular rate. The technique has allowed Wallace to map the geographical ancestry of all the Native American peoples back to Siberia and northeast Asia.

    The route of the Clovis hypothesis was right. The date, however, was wrong - out by up to 20,000 years. Wallace's migration history showed waves of incomers. The Clovis people were clearly not the first humans to set foot across North America.

    Dennis Stanford went back to first principles to investigate Clovis afresh, looking at tools from the period along the route Clovis was assumed to have taken from Siberia via the Bering Strait to Alaska. The large bifaced Clovis point was not in the archaeological record. Instead the tools used microblades, numerous small flint flakes lined up along the spear shaft to make its head.

    Wallace's DNA work suggested migration from Asia to America but the Clovis trail contradicted it. Bruce Bradley stepped in to help solve this dichotomy, bringing with him one particular skill: flintknapping and the ability to read flint tools for their most intimate secrets.

    He spotted the similarity in production method between the Clovis point and tools m

    • by sherriw ( 794536 )
      Very interesting comment. Thanks for posting that! Wish I had mod points.
    • We ALL know that scientific conclusions supported by consensus are beyond reproach, and this... Clovis Denier... should be run out of the scientific community in disgrace!

      "a consensus became so established that dissenters felt uneasy challenging it."

      Good thing our scientists have grown beyond such close-mindedness!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pln2bz ( 449850 ) *
      I have to agree, based upon my own reading, that the idea that man did not reach the Americas prior to 12,000 years ago is little more than orthodoxy at this point. There is ample evidence that points to alternative conclusions. If you doubt this, and are not afraid to challenge your own beliefs in this regard, then read Charles Ginenthal's "The Extinction of the Mammoth". Regarding the excerpt you post here:

      An icon that was supremely effective: the introduction of the innovative spearpoint coincided wit

  • 12 is too young (Score:2, Informative)

    But there were people here before 12kya, learning the "Clovis" point from the French, inventing chewable crack cocaine by themselves (using calcium carbonate), and generally having a good time.

    Folks have been here so long it is hard to calibrate their radiocarbon dates.

    Genes can be killed off. We have artifacts older than genes. I guess the Old Ones got killed off. Was Kennewick Man (portrayed by Patrick Stewart) an Old One?

    Anyone with specialist knowledge, please comment.
  • Not a theory? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:03PM (#21495341)

    Excuse me, could someone explain to me how "the theory that the ancestors of modern native peoples throughout the Americas came from a single source in East Asia" is not a theory, as the !atheory tag seems to point out?

  • A single glance at pictures of Tibetans and natives from the Andean highlands convinced me of that years ago - but then I'm not a scientist and don't work under any burden of proof, so I have it easy.
  • This totally ruin's their theory that ships came across from northern Africa to South America. Sort of blows all sorts of holes in their religion.
  • Truth be told ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by sgunhouse ( 1050564 )
    I do wish people wouldn't make such baseless claims as that. "... the first ..."? We have found some fossil remains that predate that (as in, more than 12000 years ago) by quite a bit. One could claim that those others failed to survive where they'd have descendents alive today - raising the question of when they died out and for what reason - but claims that the first humans in the Americas arrived 12000 years ago are obviously false.
  • by E++99 ( 880734 )
    Unlike what is claimed in the summary, the study makes no claims about the "first humans" in the Americas, only about the ancestry of the existing descendants of early settlers.

    IMHO, it is a stretch to use the analysis they did for making conclusions about migration routes and so forth. We're talking about an analysis of general DNA diversity after over 10,000 years of empires, wars, and extinctions of many lineages.

    1) We know there existed in the south, especially the extreme south, morphological diversit
  • by m2943 ( 1140797 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:41PM (#21495923)
    That's only the surviving population; it doesn't tell you whether there were previous migrations that didn't survive, or small previous migrations that just completely got absorbed in the last big one.

    People that are hypothesizing previous migrations (and there is some archaeological evidence) generally also assume that those populations died out, were killed, or were absorbed by the "native Americans".
  • The land bridge connecting Siberia to North America was still in existence 6000 years ago, and there was most likely migration into and out of the Siberian territory and North America between 12,000 years ago and 6,000 years ago.
  • The Mormons claim that the American Indians are decendants of the ancient Israelites. (Main storyline of the Book of Mormon.)

    Problem is that all of the evidence, including this, disprove that conjecture. Not that Mormons look at evidence that might challenge their beliefs. (They are taught to look the other way when faced with proof that their beliefs are total fantasy.)

    Of course the history of The Pearl of Great Price's translation should have shown them that the Church is not true, no matter how many ti
  • First it doesn't allow for multiple migrations from the same Asia population and it doesn't take into account the possibility of extinct migrations. It's possible several migrations failed and all immigrants died whether from starvation or even being wiped out by future migrations like in New Zealand.
  • by rtrifts ( 61627 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:32PM (#21500777) Homepage
    This study may well be entirely supported and its sample group representative. I have no expertise in this matter at all.

    That disclaimer aside, there is a chance that this study's base assumption belies a fatal flaw. The exact percentage of Indigenous peoples to the Americas that survived the epidemics unleashed upon them by the Early Europeans is unknown. The percentage of the survivors may be lower than 10% of the general population after 1492 than existed before that time.

    Testing a population after a **massive** cull brought on by an epidemic centuries ago is a very slippery genetic slope.

    By way of a poor analogy, Cystic fibrosis is a mutation traceable to Scandanavia in the middle ages where the mutation - as horrible as its longterm effects may be - played a significant role in the carriers of the mutation having a genetic advantage to survive infection by bubonic plague. What means miserable death now meant life, then.

    If (and that's a BIG if) the genetic marker they are tracing played a role in the survival of the current population from the epidemic unleashed upon them by the Europeans (believed to be primarily small pox) then what is being studied as a representative sample of an entire population may, in fact, be an isolated view of a trait that the survivors of the smallpox epidemic all shared. As a consequence, this result may have nothing to do with the vastly larger genetic base of the those who died and the migration patterns THEIR genes would have shown.

    We simply don't know. I suppose that DNA samples from those frozen Mayan children (whose genes were not selected in any way by epidemiology) could be illuminating on this issue.

    If you are, in fact, examining a control group, but believe that biased control group to be a representative sample of a much larger general population, your data may well be fatally flawed.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker