Genetic study traces impact of colonialism in Latin America





A recent molecular analysis of ancestry across Latin America has revealed a marked differentiation between regions and demonstrated a "genetic continuity" between pre-and post Columbian populations. This study provides the first broad description of how the genome diversity of populations from Latin America has been shaped by the colonial history of the region.

The researchers examined genetic markers across the human genome, in hundreds of individuals drawn from 13 mestizo populations found in seven Latin American countries. The picture obtained is that of a great variation in ancestry within and across regions, linked to and led by the colonization that occurred. It also appears that mostly Native and African women and European men contributed genes to the subsequent generations.

Interestingly, despite the fact that the European colonization occurred centuries ago, Latin Americans still preserve the genetic heritage of the local (in many cases now extinct) Native populations that mixed with the immigrants. This connection with the past has not been erased despite the current high mobility of individuals. Furthermore, it brings to life the "brotherhood" of each Latin American population to the Native populations that currently inhabit different countries.

In addition to providing a window into the past, the authors hope that these analyses will contribute to the design of studies aimed at identifying genes for diseases with different frequency in Native Americans and Europeans.


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