Latin Americans show widespread Mediterranean and North African ancestry

Recent preprint Latin Americans show wide-spread Converso ancestry and the imprint of local Native ancestry on physical appearance, by Chacon-Duque et al. bioRxiv (2018).


Historical records and genetic analyses indicate that Latin Americans trace their ancestry mainly to the admixture of Native Americans, Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans. Using novel haplotype-based methods here we infer the sub-populations involved in admixture for over 6,500 Latin Americans and evaluate the impact of sub-continental ancestry on the physical appearance of these individuals. We find that pre-Columbian Native genetic structure is mirrored in Latin Americans and that sources of non-Native ancestry, and admixture timings, match documented migratory flows. We also detect South/East Mediterranean ancestry across Latin America, probably stemming from the clandestine colonial migration of Christian converts of non-European origin (Conversos). Furthermore, we find that Central Andean ancestry impacts on variation of facial features in Latin Americans, particularly nose morphology, possibly relating to environmental adaptation during the evolution of Native Americans.

Reference population samples, fineSTRUCTURE groups and SOURCEFIND ancestry estimates for the five Latin American countries examined. (A) Colored pies and grey dots indicate the approximate geographic location of the 117 reference population samples studied. These samples have been subdivided on the world map into five major biogeographic regions: Native Americans (38 populations), Europeans (42 populations), East/South Mediterraneans (15 populations), Sub-Saharan Africans (15 populations) and East Asians (7 populations). The coloring of pies represents the proportion of individuals from that sample included in one of the 35 reference groups defined using fineSTRUCTURE (these groups are listed in the color-coded insets for each region; Supplementary Fig. 2). The grey dots indicate reference populations not inferred to contribute ancestry to the CANDELA sample. Panels (B) and (C) show, respectively, the estimated proportion of sub-continental Native American and European ancestry components in individuals with >5% total Native American or European ancestry in each country sampled (the stacked bars are color-coded as for the reference population groups shown in the insets of panel (A)). Panel (D) shows boxplots of the estimated sub-continental ancestry components for individuals with >5% total Sephardic/East/South Mediterranean ancestry. In this panel colors refer to countries as for the colored country labels shown in (A).

I don’t know how I missed this. It is probably the biggest sample of Latin American populations used for genetic analysis, and it seems it is due for publication soon.

One of its most interesting finds is the eastern Mediterranean and North African ancestry found in almost a quarter of the individuals sampled all over Latin America, which the authors attribute to Sephardic Jews or Conversos.

Although these Conversos were forbidden from migrating to the colonies, historical records document that some individuals made the journey, in an attempt to avoid persecution14. Since this was a clandestine process, the extent of Converso migration to Latin America is poorly documented. Genetic studies have provided suggestive evidence that certain Latin American populations, arguably with a peculiar history, could have substantial Converso ancestry1,18. Our findings indicate that the genetic signature of Converso migration to Latin America is substantially more prevalent than suggested by these special cases, or by historical records.

However, strictly speaking, Converso refers to a recent convert, while this ancestry could have also been part of older Sephardic (and obviously other North African) admixture found in Iberian populations during the Reconquista.

Geographic variation of Native American (A), European (B), and East/South Mediterranean (C) ancestry sub-components in Latin American individuals. Each pie represents an individual with pie location corresponding to birthplace. Since many individuals share birthplace, jittering has been performed based on pie size and how crowded an area is. Pie size is proportional to total continental ancestry and only individuals with >5% of each continental ancestry are shown. Coloring of pies represents the proportion of each sub-continental component estimated for each individual (color-coded as in Fig. 1; Chaco2 does not contribute >5% to any individual and was excluded). Pies in panel (C) have been enlarged to facilitate visualization.

Discovered via Lizzie Wade’s article Latin America’s lost histories revealed in modern DNA, Science (2018).


Ancient Patagonian genomes suggest origin and diversification of late maritime hunter-gatherers


Genomic insights into the origin and diversification of late maritime hunter-gatherers from the Chilean Patagonia, by de la Fuente et al. PNAS (2018) published ahead of print.

Abstract (emphasis mine):

Patagonia was the last region of the Americas reached by humans who entered the continent from Siberia ∼15,000–20,000 y ago. Despite recent genomic approaches to reconstruct the continental evolutionary history, regional characterization of ancient and modern genomes remains understudied. Exploring the genomic diversity within Patagonia is not just a valuable strategy to gain a better understanding of the history and diversification of human populations in the southernmost tip of the Americas, but it would also improve the representation of Native American diversity in global databases of human variation. Here, we present genome data from four modern populations from Central Southern Chile and Patagonia (n = 61) and four ancient maritime individuals from Patagonia (∼1,000 y old). Both the modern and ancient individuals studied in this work have a greater genetic affinity with other modern Native Americans than to any non-American population, showing within South America a clear structure between major geographical regions. Native Patagonian Kawéskar and Yámana showed the highest genetic affinity with the ancient individuals, indicating genetic continuity in the region during the past 1,000 y before present, together with an important agreement between the ethnic affiliation and historical distribution of both groups. Lastly, the ancient maritime individuals were genetically equidistant to a ∼200-y-old terrestrial hunter-gatherer from Tierra del Fuego, which supports a model with an initial separation of a common ancestral group to both maritime populations from a terrestrial population, with a later diversification of the maritime groups.

PCA of ancient and present-day South American populations. All of the ancient individuals were projected onto the first two PCs by using the lsq option from smartpca.


Ancient DNA reveals temporal population structure of pre-Incan and Incan periods in South‐Central Andes area

Ancient DNA reveals temporal population structure within the South‐Central Andes area, by Russo et al. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. (2018).

Abstract (emphasis mine):

The main aim of this work was to contribute to the knowledge of pre‐Hispanic genetic variation and population structure among the South‐central Andes Area by studying individuals from Quebrada de Humahuaca, North‐western (NW) Argentina.

Materials and methods
We analyzed 15 autosomal STRs in 19 individuals from several archaeological sites in Quebrada de Humahuaca, belonging to the Regional Developments Period (900–1430 AD). Compiling autosomal, mitochondrial, and Y‐chromosome data, we evaluated population structure and differentiation among eight South‐central Andean groups from the current territories of NW Argentina and Peru.

Location of the archaeological sites analyzed in this study (stars) and the South-central Andean populations used for comparisons (triangles). The punctuated line indicates the north-south subdivision of Quebrada de Humahuaca.1: Pe~nas Blancas, 2: San José, 3: Huacalera, 4: Banda de Perchel, 5: Juella, 6: Sarahuaico, 7: Tilcara, 8: Muyuna, 9: Los Amarillos, 10: Las Pirguas, 11: Tompullo 2, 12: Puca, 13: Acchaymarca, 14: Lauricocha. Map constructed from the obtained with the R package ggmap (Kahle & Wickham, 2013)

Autosomal data revealed a structuring of the analyzed populations into two clusters which seemed to represent different temporalities in the Andean pre‐Hispanic history: pre‐Inca and Inca. All pre‐Inca samples fell into the same cluster despite being from the two different territories of NW Argentina and Peru. Also, they were systematically differentiated from the Peruvian Inca group. These results were mostly confirmed by mitochondrial and Y‐chromosome analyses. We mainly found a clearly different haplotype composition between clusters.

Population structure in South America has been mostly studied on current native groups, mainly showing a west‐to‐east differentiation between the Andean and lowland regions. Here we demonstrated that genetic population differentiation preceded the European contact and might have been more complex than thought, being found within the South‐central Andes Area. Moreover, divergence among temporally different populations might be reflecting socio‐political changes occurred in the evermore complex pre‐Hispanic Andean societies.

Principal coordinates analysis (PCoA) based on individual genetic distances obtained with autosomal STRs data. Percentage of variance explained by each coordinate is shown in parenthesis. Colors were assigned according to the two clusters discovered with structure

See also: