Native Americans May Have Originated From Siberia
November 21, 2013

DNA Study Suggests Native Americans May Have Originated From Siberia

[ Watch the Video: Bones From Siberia Share Similar DNA To Native Americans ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Researchers sequencing the genome of the 24,000-year-old skeletal remains of a young Siberian boy have discovered that DNA from his gene pool could be responsible for over one-third of the ancestry of all modern Native Americans, according to a study appearing in the journal Nature.

Investigators from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and an international team of colleagues completed the study, which could drastically alter the scientific community’s understanding of where and how ancestral Native Americans found their way to the continent.

The skeleton at the heart of the research belonged to a juvenile individual (MA-1) from the Upper Paleolithic site of Mal'ta in south-central Siberia, the study authors explained in a statement Wednesday.

DNA analysis of the skeleton revealed that it was related to modern Native Americans, but not to East Asians, who are regarded as being more closely related, genetically-speaking, to Native Americans than to present-day western Eurasians. In fact, both the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes of MA-1 indicated a relationship to the Native American group of peoples.

[ Watch the Video: Skeleton In Siberia Raises Questions About First Americans ]

“Furthermore, the team finds evidence that this genetic affinity between MA-1 and Native Americans is mediated by a gene flow event from MA-1 into the First Americans, which can explain between 14-38% of the ancestry of modern Native Americans, with the remainder of the ancestry being derived from East Asians,” the University of Copenhagen, one of the institutions participating in the study, added.

The investigators concluded that two distinct Old World populations each played a role in the formation of the original Native American gene pool. One group was related to modern-day East Asians, while the other was a Siberian Upper Paleolithic population related to current-day western Eurasians.

"The result came as a complete surprise to us,” said Professor Eske Willerslev of the Centre for GeoGenetics. “Who would have thought that present-day Native Americans, who we learned in school derive from East Asians, share recent evolutionary history with contemporary western Eurasians? Even more intriguingly, this happened by gene flow from an ancient population that is so far represented only by the MA-1 individual living some 24,000 years ago.”

Kelly Graf, an assistant professor in the Center for the Study of First Americans and Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M who helped extract genetic material from the upper part of the boy’s arm, said that the findings “surprised all of us quite a bit.”

She added that MA-1 “shared close genetic ties with other Ice-Age western Eurasians living in European Russia, Czech Republic and even Germany,” and that the study “proves that Native Americans ancestors migrated to the Americas from Siberia and not directly from Europe as some have recently suggested.”