Researchers reveal interactive global map of human genetic history
Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times
London, February 14, 2014
First Published: 01:22 IST(14/2/2014)
Last Updated: 08:05 IST(14/2/2014)
For the first time, a global map detailing the genetic histories of 95 different populations across the world, showing likely genetic impacts of European colonialism, the Arab slave trade, the Mongol Empire and European traders near the Silk Road mixing with people in China, has been revealed.
The interactive map, produced by researchers from Oxford University and UCL (University College London), can be accessed here and details the histories of genetic mixing between each of the 95 populations across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America spanning the last four millennia.
The study, published this week in Science, simultaneously identifies, dates and characterises genetic mixing between populations, a release from the University of Oxford said.
To do this, the researchers developed sophisticated statistical methods to analyse the DNA of 1490 individuals in 95 populations around the world.
Simon Myers of Oxford’s Department of Statistics said: “DNA really has the power to tell stories and uncover details of humanity's past. Because our approach uses only genetic data, it provides information independent from other sources. Many of our genetic observations match historical events, and we also see evidence of previously unrecorded genetic mixing”.
The powerful technique, christened 'Globetrotter', provides insight into past events such as the genetic legacy of the Mongol Empire. Historical records suggest that the Hazara people of Pakistan are partially descended from Mongol warriors, and this study found clear evidence of Mongol DNA entering the population during the period of the Mongol Empire.
Six other populations, from as far west as Turkey, showed similar evidence of genetic mixing with Mongols around the same time, the release said.
The team used genome data for all 1490 individuals to identify 'chunks' of DNA that were shared between individuals from different populations. Populations sharing more ancestry share more chunks, and individual chunks give clues about the underlying ancestry along chromosomes.