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Ancient Siberian genome linked to origins of Native Americans

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The genome of a 24,000-year-old Siberian individual has yielded clues to the genetic origins of Native Americans, Danish researchers say.

DNA in the remains of a juvenile individual from the Upper Palaeolithic site of Mal'ta in south-central Siberia matches genomic signatures that are fundamental in present-day western Eurasians and close to modern Native Americans, researchers at the University of Copenhagen reported Wednesday.

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The finding has great consequences for understanding how and from where ancestral Native Americans descended and also of the genetic landscape of Eurasia 24,000 years ago, they said.

The Siberian genome, the oldest human genome sequenced to date, provides insights into the origins of Native Americans, whose ancestors crossed from Siberia into the New World during the last Ice Age, the researchers said.

About a third of Native American ancestry came from an ancient population related to Europeans, they said.

"Parts of the genome you find today in western Eurasians, other parts of the genome you find today in Native Americans -- and are unique today to Native Americans," lead researcher Eske Willerslev said.

"Native Americans are composed of the meeting of two populations -- an East Asian group and these Mal'ta west Eurasian populations," Willerslev said, although he acknowledged it remains unclear where this mixing took place.

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"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?"

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