Menu

Ancient DNA Elucidates Basque Origins

Researchers find that the people of northern Spain and southern France are an amalgam of early Iberian farmers and local hunters.

Sep 9, 2015
Bob Grant

Is the fog lifting on mysterious Basque origins?WIKIMEDIA, RUSSAVIAThe mysterious origins of the Basque people of northern Spain and southern France have become a little clearer thanks to DNA extracted from centuries-old human remains unearthed in a Spanish cave. Nearly 700,000 Basques, who speak a globally unique language and retain genetic patterns that distinguish them from other Europeans, seem to be descendants of Neolithic farmers who mixed with local hunters before becoming genetically isolated from the rest of Europe for millennia.

Researchers led by population geneticist Mattias Jakobsson from Uppsala University in Sweden analyzed DNA from eight skeletons pulled out of El Portalón cave in the Basque country of northern Spain. The team compared the genomes extracted from the remains, dated to between 3,500 and 5,500 years old, to modern European genomes and more than 12 ancient genomes from 5,000- to 8,000-year-old skeletons from Western and Central Europe. The El Portalón skeletons retained genetic traces that tied them more closely to modern-day Basques than any other European. Jakobsson and his coauthors reported their results yesterday (September 8) in PNAS.

The researchers suggested that early Basques likely sheltered from waves of European migration that began about 5,000 years ago. “It’s hard to speculate, but we’ve been working with Basque historians and it’s clear from the historical record that this area was very difficult to conquer,” Jakobsson told BBC News.

The findings contradict earlier models, which suggested Basque people were genetically distinct from other Europeans because they represented a relic population of ancient hunter-gatherers. If that were true, modern Basques would have genetic signatures that were more similar to ancient DNA recovered from hunter-gatherers rather than to the El Portalón remains. “We can finally set aside this old story,” Jakobsson told Science.

February 2019

Big Storms Brewing

Can forests weather more major hurricanes?

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb), a global leader of life science research and clinical diagnostic products, today announced that its QXDx AutoDG ddPCR System, which uses Bio-Rad’s Droplet Digital PCR technology, and the QXDx BCR-ABL %IS Kit are the industry’s first digital PCR products to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Used together, Bio-Rad’s system and kit can precisely and reproducibly monitor molecular response to treatment in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb) today showcases new automation features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer during the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2019 International Conference and Exhibition (SLAS) in Washington, D.C., February 2–6. These capabilities enable the ZE5 to be used for high-throughput flow cytometry in biomarker discovery and phenotypic screening.
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Researchers to benefit from an innovative software-connected pipetting system, bringing improved reproducibility and traceability of experiments to life-science laboratories.
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) will showcase advanced 3D cell culture technologies and workflow solutions for spheroids, organoids, tissue models, and applications including ADME/toxicology at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference, Feb. 2-6 in Washington, D.C.