Monday, November 18, 2013

Mapping the DNA of American Natives

University of Illinois anthropology professor Ripan Malhi has analyzed DNA samples to try and determine how humans made their way to the Americas 15,000 years ago. They looked closely at mitochondrial genome that comes from mothers and found a stronger connection to the ancient past. The natives of Prince Rupert Island have the same genetic background as their ancestors. The natives of Northern California were complex hunter-gatherers while those of Mexico transitioned to agriculture. 

Two general theories appear to dominate the American migration theories. One is that people moved across an ice shelf from Europe and another is that Asianic people used boats to move down the California coast. No one really knows what happened. Both theories have been challenged at one time or another based upon artifact finding, carbon dating, and anthropology studies. 

The genetic studies are interesting in that they can help connect peoples from the Americas to those in other areas. Most researchers have little evidence that American human life generated from the southern jungles in South America. However, the genetic studies will further clear the hazy theories about where natives really came from or whether they were homegrown. 

Mitochondrial DNA is where energy from food is converted for use in other cells. The Mitochondrial DNA is standalone in the sense that each cell comes with their own DNA unconnected to other DNA in the body. This is one of the reasons why such DNA can be traced back through the mother’s line to ancient people. Scientists are using this DNA to understand the origin of people’s from around the world and previous studies in Europe indicate common migration.

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