Arctic Expansion

Genetic analysis reveals the history of the earliest human migrations in the region.

By | September 2, 2014

FLICKR, NASA GODDARDThe Arctic’s earliest human inhabitants migrated into the region from Siberia approximately 6,000 years ago. These so called Paleo-Eskimo peoples lived in isolation—despite periodic migrations of other populations—before suddenly vanishing 700 years ago, according to a study published last week (August 29) in Science.

This genetic analysis of 169 ancient and present-day humans used museum specimens of bones, teeth, and hair from Alaska, Canada, and Greenland; the researchers, led by Maanasa Raghavan and Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, also sequenced the genomes of modern-day Native American, Inuit, and Aleutian Islander families to enable comparative analyses.

Their results showed that Paleo-Eskimos spread into the Arctic independent of Native American and Inuit migrations. Although it periodically abandoned the area, this Paleo-Eskimo population lived there in near-isolation for almost 4,000 years before disappearing. The team’s analyses also showed that modern-day Inuits are not directly related to these earliest settlers, suggesting that the ancient Paleo-Eskimo lineage did not vanish simply due to interbreeding.

“Elsewhere, as soon as people meet each other, they have sex,” Willerslev told National Geographic. “Even potentially different species like Neanderthals [and modern humans] had sex, so this finding is extremely surprising.”

Instead, this population may have developed medical problems as a result of continuous inbreeding, which may have contributed to their eventual extinction, Willerslev told The New York Times. Another potential factor may have been climate change, as periodic fluctuations of even a few degrees could cause a loss of marine food resources.

“By using genetics and genomics, they were able to answer questions that archaeologists have been trying to solve for decades,” anthropologist Todd Disotell of New York University who was not involved in the research told the New York Times. “With genetics, you’re looking at the ancient people themselves, not their refuse, so to speak.”


Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. Rethinking the Rise of Mammals
    Daily News Rethinking the Rise of Mammals

    Mammals diversified 30 million years later than previously estimated, according to a new analysis of an ancient fossil.

  2. Wiping Out Gut Bugs Stops Obesity
  3. Birth of the Skin Microbiome
    Daily News Birth of the Skin Microbiome

    The immune system tolerates the colonization of commensal bacteria on the skin with the aid of regulatory T cells during the first few weeks of life, a mouse study shows.

  4. Battling the Bulge
    Bio Business Battling the Bulge

    Weight-loss drugs that target newly characterized obesity-related receptors and pathways could finally offer truly effective fat control.

Life Technologies