First Peoples: study finds two ancient ancestries ‘reconverged’ with settling of South America | University of Tartu

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Contacts of UT units

Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5341
Faculty address: 
Jakobi 2, rooms 116–121, 51005 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5341
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, rooms 116–121, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of History and Archaeology
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5651
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5221
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5314
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, rooms 309–352, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Cultural Research
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5223
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 16, 51003 Tartu
  • School of Theology and Religious Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5301
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18–310, 50090 Tartu
  • College of Foreign Languages and Cultures
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 3, 51003 Tartu
  • Viljandi Culture Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 435 5232
    Faculty address: 
    Posti 1, 71004 Viljandi
Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5957
Faculty address: 
Lossi 36, 51003 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5900
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Education
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6440
    Faculty address: 
    Salme 1a–29, 50103 Tartu
  • Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5582
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36–301, 51003 Tartu
  • School of Economics and Business Administration
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6310
    Faculty address: 
    J. Liivi 4, 50409 Tartu
  • Institute of Psychology
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    Näituse 2, 50409 Tartu
  • School of Law
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  • Institute of Social Studies
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Faculty of Medicine
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Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
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    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine
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    Biomeedikum, Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Pharmacy
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    Nooruse 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Dentistry
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    Raekoja plats 6, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Clinical Medicine
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    L. Puusepa 8, 50406 Tartu
  • Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health
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    +372 737 4190
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5360
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 5–205, 51005 Tartu
Faculty of Science and Technology
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5820
Faculty address: 
Vanemuise 46–208, 51014 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5820
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46–208, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Computer Science
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5445
    Faculty address: 
    J. Liivi 2, 50409 Tartu
  • Estonian Marine Institute
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 671 8902
    Faculty address: 
    Mäealuse 14, 12618 Tallinn
  • Institute of Physics
    Faculty address: 
    W. Ostwaldi 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Chemistry
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5261
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 14a, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Mathematics and Statistics
    Faculty phone: 
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    J. Liivi 2, 50409 Tartu
  • Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
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    Riia 23, 23b–134, 51010 Tartu
  • Tartu Observatory
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    Observatooriumi 1, Tõravere, 61602 Tartumaa
  • Institute of Technology
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    Nooruse 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences
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    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51003 Tartu
Institutions
  • Library
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5702
    Faculty address: 
    W. Struve 1, 50091 Tartu
  • Youth Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5581
    Faculty address: 
    Uppsala 10, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Genomics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 4000
    Faculty address: 
    Riia 23b, 51010 Tartu
  • Museum
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5674
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 25, 51003 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6076
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51003 Tartu
Support Units
  • Administrative Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5606
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6339
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 3, III floor, 51003 Tartu
  • University Office in Tallinn
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6600
    Faculty address: 
    Teatri väljak 3, 10143 Tallinn
  • Estates Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5137
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Finance Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5125
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 4, 51005 Tartu
  • Grant Office
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    +372 737 6215
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 3, III floor, 51003 Tartu
  • Information Technology Office
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    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Human Resources Office
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    +372 737 5145
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, rooms 302 and 304, 50090 Tartu
  • Internal Audit Office
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    Ülikooli 17–103, 51005 Tartu
  • Marketing and Communication Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5687
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, rooms 102, 104, 209, 210, 50090 Tartu
  • Office of Academic Affairs
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5620
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • Procurement Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6632
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Rector's Strategy Office
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    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • Student Council
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    +372 737 5400
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18b, 51005 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Press
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    +372 737 5945
    Faculty address: 
    W. Struve 1, 50091 Tartu
Other Units
  • University of Tartu Academic Sports Club
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5371
    Faculty address: 
    Ujula 4, 51008 Tartu
  • Tartu Student Village
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    +372 740 9959
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 25, 51013 Tartu
  • Tartu Students’ Club
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    +372 730 2400
    Faculty address: 
    Kalevi 24, 51010 Tartu
  • Tartu University Hospital
    Faculty address: 
    L. Puusepa 1a, 50406 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Foundation
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    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • View all other units

First Peoples: study finds two ancient ancestries ‘reconverged’ with settling of South America

www.cam.ac.uk
New research using ancient DNA finds that a population split after people first arrived in North America was maintained for millennia before mixing again before or during the expansion of humans into the southern continent.
Recent research has suggested that the first people to enter the Americas split into two ancestral branches, the northern and southern, and that the “southern branch” gave rise to all populations in Central and South America.
Now, a study shows for the first time that, deep in their genetic history, the majority – if not all – of the Indigenous peoples of the southern continent retain at least some DNA from the “northern branch”: the direct ancestors of many Native communities living today in the Canadian east.
The latest findings, published today in the journal Science, reveal that, while these two populations may have remained separate for millennia – long enough for distinct genetic ancestries to emerge – they came back together before or during the expansion of people into South America.
The new analyses of 91 ancient genomes from sites in California and Canada also provide further evidence that the first peoples separated into two populations between 18 to 15,000 years ago. This would have been during or after migrating across the now-submerged land bridge from Siberia along the coast.
Ancient genomes from sites in Southwest Ontario show that, after the split, Indigenous ancestors representing the northern branch migrated eastwards to the great lakes region. This population may have followed the retreating glacial edges as the Ice Age began to thaw, say researchers.
The study also adds evidence that the prehistoric people associated with Clovis culture – named for 13,000-year-old stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico and once believed to be ancestral to all Native Americans – originated from ancient peoples representing the southern branch.
This southern population likely continued down the Pacific coast, inhabiting islands along the way. Ancient DNA from the Californian Channel Islands shows that initial populations were closely related to the Clovis people.
Yet contemporary Central and South American genomes reveal a “reconvergence” of these two branches deep in time. The scientific team, led by the universities of Cambridge, UK, and Illinois Urbana-Champaign, US, say there must have been one or a number of “admixture” events between the two populations around 13,000 years ago. 
They say that the blending of lineages occurred either in North America – prior to expansion south – or as people migrated ever deeper into the southern continent, most likely following the western coast down.
“It was previously thought that South Americans, and indeed most Native Americans, derived from one ancestry related to the Clovis people,” said Dr Toomas Kivisild, co-senior author of the study from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology and University of Tartu, Estonia.
“We now find that all native populations in North, Central and South America also draw genetic ancestry from a northern branch most closely related to Indigenous peoples of eastern Canada. This cannot be explained by activity in the last few thousand years. It is something altogether more ancient,” he said.
Dr Ripan Malhi, co-senior author from Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said: “Working in partnership with Indigenous communities, we can now learn more about the intricacies of ancestral histories in the Americas through advances in paleogenomic technologies. We are starting to see that previous models of ancient populations were unrealistically simple.”
Present day Central and South American populations analysed in the study were found to have a genetic contribution from the northern branch ranging between 42% to as high as 71% of the genome.
Surprisingly, the highest proportion of northern branch genetics in South America was found way down in southern Chile, in the same area as the Monte Verde archeological site – one of the oldest known human settlements in the Americas (over 14,500 years old).
“It’s certainly an intriguing finding, although currently circumstantial – we don’t have ancient DNA to corroborate how early this northern ancestral branch arrived,” said Dr Christiana Scheib, first author of the study from the University of Cambridge now at University of Tartu, Estonia.
“It could be evidence for a vanguard population from the northern branch deep in the southern continent that became isolated for a long time – preserving a genetic continuity.
“Prior to 13,000 years ago, expansion into the tip of South America would have been difficult due to massive ice sheets blocking the way. However, the area in Chile where the Monte Verde site is located was not covered in ice at this time,” she said.
“In populations living today across both continents we see much higher genetic proportions of the southern, Clovis-related branch. Perhaps they had some technology or cultural practice that allowed for faster expansion, pushing the northern branch to the edges of the landmass as well as promoting admixture.”
While consultation efforts varied in this study from community-based partnerships to more limited engagement, the researchers argue that more must be done to include Indigenous communities in ancient DNA studies in the Americas.
The researchers say that genomic analysis of ancient people can have adverse consequences for linked Indigenous communities. Engagement work can help avoid unintended harm to the community and ensure that Indigenous peoples have a voice in research.
“The lab-based science should only be a part of the research. We need to work with Indigenous communities in a more holistic way,” added Schieb.
“From the analysis of a single tooth, paleogenomics research can now offer information on ancient diet and disease as well as migration. By developing partnerships that incorporate ideas from Native communities, we can potentially generate results that are of direct interest and use to the Indigenous peoples involved,” she said.
 
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE MEDIA RELEASE
 
Futher information:
Mait Metspalu, director of Institute of Genomics (UT), 5283315, mait.metspalu [ät] ut.ee
Toomas Kivisild, Senior Research Fellow of Population Genetics (UT), toomas.kivisild [ät] ut.ee
Christiana Lyn Scheib, Senior Research Fellow of Ancient DNA (UT), christiana.lyn.scheib [ät] ut.ee