Using genetic analyses, scientists have discovered Northern European populations including British, Scandinavians, French and some Eastern Europeans descend from a mixture of two very different ancestral populations, and one of these populations is related to Americans Indians.
Writing in the Genetics Society of America's journal GENETICS, researchers say the discovery helps fill gaps in scientific understanding of both American Indian and Northern European ancestry, while providing an explanation for some genetic similarities among what would otherwise seem to be very divergent groups.
"There is a genetic link between the paleolithic population of Europe and modern Native Americans," study lead author Nick Patterson said. "The evidence is that the population that crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia into the Americas more than 15,000 years ago was likely related to the ancient population of Europe."
DNA studies suggest one of the ancestral populations was the first farming population of Europe, whose DNA lives on today in relatively unmixed form in Sardinians and the people of the Basque Country, while the other ancestral population is likely to have been the initial hunter-gathering population of Europe.
"The human genome holds numerous secrets. Not only does it unlock important clues to cure human disease, it also reveals clues to our prehistoric past," Mark Johnston, editor in chief of GENETICS said.
"This relationship between humans separated by the Atlantic Ocean reveals surprising features of the migration patterns of our ancestors, and reinforces the truth that all humans are closely related."
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