Friday, November 8, 2019

The genetic imprint of Palaeolithic populations has been detected in current North African populations

News from IBE (CSIC-UPF) and DCEXS-UPF

An international team of scientists has for the first time performed an analysis of the complete genome of the population of North Africa. They have identified a small genetic imprint of the inhabitants of the region in Palaeolithic times, thus ruling out the theory that recent migrations from other regions completely erased the genetic traces of ancient North Africans. The study was led by David Comas, principal investigator at UPF and at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE: CSIC-UPF) and it has been published in the journal Current Biology.

The field of genomics has evolved greatly in recent years. DNA sequencing is increasingly affordable and there are major projects studying genomes at population level. However, some human populations like those of North Africa have been systematically ignored. This is the first genomic study to contextualize this region of the world.

In this study, the researchers compared genetic data from current North African individuals with data recently published on the DNA of fossil remains found at different sites in Morocco. “We see that the current populations of North Africa are the result of this replacement but we detect small traces of this continuity from Palaeolithic times, i.e., total replacement did not take place in the populations of North Africa”, reveals David Comas, full professor of Biological Anthropology at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) at UPF.  “We do not know whether the first settlers 300,000 years ago are their ancestors, but we do detect imprints of this continuity at least since Palaeolithic times, since 15,000 years ago or more”, he adds.

 

Reference:
Serra-Vidal et al., Heterogeneity in Palaeolithic Population Continuity and Neolithic Expansion in North Africa, Current Biology (2019), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.09.050

More information:
IBE website
DCEXS-UPF website

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