Genetic Research

This segment of the Transpacific Project seeks to present the most up to date knowledge produced by genetic research that falls within the scope and the focus of this project on transpacific relations. The rapidly growing body of genetic research and knowledge generation has provided conclusive proof that there are no biological races in the human species and that all the peoples of the Pacific Basin (and the world) are related genetically through their common ancestry.

This increasing genetic evidence reveals all members of the human species share extremely close genetic characteristics and an ancient history of common ancestry. It also reveals there has been on-going gene exchange as they have spread to different geographic regions of the Earth.


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Genetic Anthropology, Ancestry, and Ancient Human Migration

Genetic anthropology is an emerging discipline that combines DNA and physical evidence to reveal the history of ancient human migration. It seeks to answer the questions, "Where did we come from, and how did we get here?" The following information has been excerpted from the website of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program.

Contemporary DNA studies indicate that all modern humans share a common female ancestor who lived in Africa about 140,000 years ago, and all men share a common male ancestor who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. These were not the only humans who lived in these periods, and as a result the human genome still contains many genetic traits of their contemporaries. Humanity's common ancestors are identifiable because their lineages have survived by chance in the special pieces of DNA that are passed down the gender lines nearly unaltered from one generation to the next. These ancestors have been identified in the growing body of fossil and DNA evidence, which indicates that modern humans arose in sub-Saharan Africa and began migrating out of Africa about 65,000 years ago, first to southern Asia, then China, Java, and Australia and the Middle East and Europe. Later still, they migrated from Asia to the Pacific Islands and the Americas. Human beings living today have in their DNA the story of their ancient ancestors' journeys.

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How genes tell the story of our ancient ancestors' migrations

When DNA is passed from one generation to the next, most of it is mixed by the processes that make each person unique from his or her parents. Some special pieces of DNA, however, remain virtually unaltered as they pass from parent to child. One of these pieces is carried by the Y chromosome, which is passed only from father to son. Another piece, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), is passed (with few exceptions) only from mother to child. Since the DNA in the Y chromosome does not mix with other DNA, it is like a genetic surname that allows men to trace their paternal lineages. Similarly, mtDNA allows both men and women to trace their maternal lineages.

Both the Y chromosome DNA and mtDNA are subject to occasional harmless mutations that become inheritable genetic markers. After several generations, a particular genetic marker is carried by almost all male and female inhabitants of the region in which it arose. When people leave that region, they carry the marker with them. By studying the genes of many different indigenous populations, scientists can trace when and where a particular marker arose. Each marker contained in a person’s DNA represents a location and migration pattern of that person’s ancient ancestors.


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For example, roughly 70% of English men, 95% of Spanish men, and 95% of Irish men have a distinctive Y-chromosome mutation known as M173. The distribution of people with this mutation, in conjunction with other DNA analyses, indicates that the men's ancestors moved north out of Spain into England and Ireland at the end of the last ice age.

DNA studies indicate that there are no separate classifiable subspecies (races) within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish separate races or ethnic groups. There is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele [one of two or more forms of a gene] will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other. Indeed, it has been proven that there is more genetic variation within the members of the so-called races of humanity than between them.To get more information on the above subjects at the website of the Human Genome Project, click here.

The Seven Daughters of Eve (2001, ISBN 0-393-02018-5) by Bryan Sykes presents the theory of Human mitochondrial genetics for a general audience. Sykes explains the principles of genetics and human evolution, mitochondrial genetics, and his analyses of ancient DNA to genetically link modern humans to their prehistoric ancestors. He traces human migrations using his DNA findings, discusses the out of Africa theory and refutes Heyerdahl's theory of the Peruvian origin of the Polynesians. He also describes the use of mitochondrial DNA in assessing the genetic makeup of modern Europe. The title of this book comes from one of the principal achievements of research on mitochondrial genetics, which is the classification of all modern Europeans into 7 mitochondrial haplogroups. Each haplogroup is defined by set of characteristic mutations on the mitochondrial genome, and can be traced along a person's maternal line to a specific prehistoric woman. Click here to read excerpts from The Seven Daughters of Eve.

For a general overview of the importance of haplogroups in contemporary genetic research, see the webpage on Haplogroup at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and Clink here for link to The Simplified Haplogroup Locale Chart, April 2008. The alphabetical designations/names of Y-DNA and mitochondrial (mtDNA) haplogroups were assigned independently of one another by different researchers . This is often confusing to newcomers who think, for example, that a B YDNA haplogroup and a B mtDNA haplogroup refer to the same locale and/or time frame. However, this is not the case – as can be seen in this very simplified locale chart. Note that this is a locale chart – not a migration chart.

Click here for link to the Y Chromosome DNA Haplogroup Tree 2011 Version: 6.48 Date: 27 June 2011 at the website of the ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy). This Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree is for informational purposes only, and does not represent an endorsement by the ISOGG. Because of continuing research, the structure of the Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree changes and ISOGG does its best to keep the tree updated with the latest developments in the field. The viewer may observe other versions of the tree on the Web.

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World mtDNA Haplogroups Maps <<-Click here to see world maps of the Y Chromosome DNA Haplogroups and the Mt DNA Haplogroups as well as "Simplified Trees" of these two sets of DNA Haplogroups.

Haplogroup X2 and the Peopling of America

Mitochondrial haplogroup X (mtDNA) is one of the five mitochondrial DNA haplogroups found among American indigenous peoples. However, unlike the other four main American mtDNA-haplogroups A,B,C and D, haplogroup X is not at all strongly associated with East Asia. The X genetic sequence diverged about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago into two sub-groups, X1 and X2. The subgroup X2 occurs at a frequency of about 3% in the total current indigenous population of the Americas.

There is some controversy over whether all ancient Native Americans came originally from East Asia because of this subclad (subgroup) X2. Although X2 is only found among some 3% of Native Americans, it is spread across North America and found among various tribes. It is most prevalent among the Algonquian peoples in Canada and the USA and it comprises up to 25% of the mtDNA haplotypes in some of these groups. It is also present in lesser percentages in the southwestern USA among the Sioux (15%), the Nuu-Chah-Nulth (11%–13%), the Navajo (7%), and the Yakama (5%). The problem is it is virtually non-existent in East Asia, except at a place in the Altai region, which is where Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazhakstan meet.

The founding Haplogroup X is present in the Near East, the Caucasus, and Mediterranean Europe; and somewhat less present in the rest of Europe. Particular concentrations appear in Georgia (8%), the Orkney Islands in Scotland (7%) and amongst the Israeli Druze community (26%).

One theory for the appearance of the haplogroup subgroup X2 in North America is that it migrated along with the A,B,C, and D mtDNA haplogroups groups from a matrilineal (female) ancestral source originating in the Altai region of central Asia. For more information on Haplogroup X, see: Maere Reidla et al, "Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X," American Journal of Human Genetics. 2003 November; 73(5): 1178–1190. Published online 2003 October 20.

The relative absence of haplogroup X2 in Asia has led to some speculation that the ancestors of this group migrated from Europe to the Americas in prehistoric times. However, the New World haplogroup X2a is as different from any of the Old World X2b, X2c, X2d, X2e and X2f lineages as these subgroups are from each other, indicating they probably have an early origin in the Near East".

The so called "Solutrean Hypothesis" suggests that haplogroup X ancestors reached North America in a prehistortic wave of European migration about 20,000 BP. This migration of Solutreans, a stone-age culture in south-western France and in Spain, is postulated to have come by boat to North America by following the southern edge of the Arctic ice pack.

However, a 2007 article in the American Journal of Human Genetics by researchers in Brazil has argued effectively against this Solutrean hypothesis. The results of their study "strongly support the hypothesis that haplogroup X, together with the other four main mtDNA haplogroups (A,B, C and D), was part of the gene pool of a single Native American founding population; therefore they do not support models that propose haplogroup-independent migrations, such as the migration from Europe posed by the Solutrean hypothesis." See "Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas", American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 82, Issue 3, (March 2008), Pages 583-592.

Haplogroups Q and C3 among Indigneous Americans

Haplogroup Q is one of the main Y chromosome haplogroups found among the indigenous peoples of the Americas.Click here to view a brief audio visual presentation on Haplogroup Q. The following map shows the geographical spread of this Y haplogroup.

The following map shows the spread of Haplogroup C3. This Haplogroup C3 is the most widespread and frequently occurring branch or subgroup of Haplogroup C. The map below reveals its geographic spread.

Haplogroup C3 is mainly found among indigenous Siberians, Mongolians and Oceanic populations. The C3 decedent C3b is commonly found in North America among today's Na-Dené speakers. The highest frequency among this language group is found among the Athabaskans at 42% (this group includes the Navajo and Apache). This distinct and isolated branch or subgroup C3b accounts for most of the Y chromosome Haplogroup C3 DNA found among the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

One particular haplotype within Haplogroup C3 has received a great deal of attention because of the possibility it may represent a direct line of patrilineal descent from Genghis Khan (MedLibrary.org general encyclopedia). For more information on Haplogroup C3, click here.

Note that Haplogroup C2 appears to have expanded throughout East Indonesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia after Austronesian colonists came from the Asian mainland and mixed with the pre-existing Melanesians. Haplogroup C1 has a small residual distribution in Japan, which suggests it may have originated among the prehistoric Jōmon people who appear to have been the first humans to settle in the Japanese Archipelago.

Genographic Project's Atlas of the Human Journey

If anyone wants to know about their most ancient ancestors, the Genographic Project will introduce them, and explain the genetic journeys associated with their personal lineage over tens of thousands of years. Click here to link to the webpage of the Genographic Porject where you can learn how to participate in the project and discover your deep ancestry by purchasing a DNA sample kit.

Click here to see a video overview (8 minutes) of the Genographic Project at the website of the National Geographic Genographic Project.

Map of Migration Patterns of Genetic Lineages (Genographic Project).     Click on map to zoom in/out

Exploring beyond the Pre-Columbian Civilizations (click for link)

The peopling of South America, the last continent to be settled by humans, is a fascinating topic for genographic researchers in this part of the world. One of their main objectives is to study the genetic diversity of the native populations of this continent, in combination with the information available from archaeology, linguistics, and history. Using genetics, they hope to find out whether South America was populated by a single migration or by multiple migratory waves. Additionally, they hope also to test different hypothesis about the human occupation of the Andes and the Amazon basin.

Haplogroup Locate Charts and Trees

Click here for link to The Simplified Haplogroup Locale Chart, April 2008. The alphabetical designations/names of Y-DNA and mitochondrial (mtDNA) haplogroups were assigned independently of one another by different researchers* . This is often confusing to newcomers who think, for example, that a B Y-DNA haplogroup and a B mtDNA haplogroup refer to the same locale and/or time frame. However, this is not the case – as can be seen in this very simplified locale chart. This is a locale chart – not a migration chart.

Click here for link to the Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree 2011 Version: 6.48, Date: 27 June 2011 at the website of the ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy). Because of continuing research, the structure of the Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree changes and ISOGG does its best to keep the tree updated with the latest developments in the field. The viewer may observe earlier versions of the tree on the Web.

To be continued….

 

Links to Related Sources of Information

Below are links to sources of information on how genetics is providing evidence of human migrations and transpacific connections between the peoples of Asia, Australia, Oceania, Polynesia and the Americas

The website of the PBS Series on Coming into America, which contains video clips and the text of the different segments of this 2004 programg as well as a teaching guide. The individual program segments are entitled "Clovis: A Primer", "Clovis First?", "Were the First Americans European?, and "By Land or By Sea".

"Genetics and the peopling of Polynesia" (The 2011 Harriet-Elliott Lecture Series blog)

The Linear Population Model blog explores a linear model to examine multivariable genetic population results and human prehistory. See FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2011, "Evolving Thoughts on the Peopling of the Americas"

The initial peopling of the Americas: A growing number of founding mitochondrial genomes from Beringia

Scientists Fight University of California to Study Rare Ancient Skeletons