What if you could trace your ancestry back to around 5,000 years
ago? Researchers were able to do just that in a fascinating new
DNA study, which found a direct
genetic link between the ancient remains of Native Americans
and their living relatives.
"It's very exciting to be able to have scientific
proof that corroborates what our ancestors have been telling
us for generations," study co-author
and participant Joycelynn Mitchell said in a written statement.
"It's very amazing how fast technology is moving to be able
to prove this kind of link with our past."
In the study, U.S. and Canadian researchers used mitochondrial
genome (mitogenome) sequencing to analyze DNA inherited exclusively
through mothers. Looking at the mitogenome is cheap, easier to sequence
than nuclear DNA, and skirts around the problem that European men
mixed with Native American women.
The researchers collected DNA
from 60 living indigenous people belonging to the Tsimshian,
Haida and Nisga'a tribes in the northern coast of British Columbia.
The tribes' oral histories and archaeological sites indicate they
have lived in the region for generations, which made them good candidates
for tracing their lineage back so many years.
Complete mitogenomes were extracted from the remains of four
individuals found in British Columbia's Lucy Islands and Dodge
Island, and then that information was compared to the DNA of the
What was found? The research team discovered one of the living
individuals carried this same "mitogenomic signature"
as a young adult female who lived on Dodge Island 2,500 years ago
-- which also matched the mitogenome of the remains of a woman who
lived in the Lucy Islands 5,500 years ago. Wow.
Three other living participants had mitogenomes that linked
back to the remains of another individual found on Dodge Island,
who may have lived around 5,000 years ago.
This is the beginning of the golden era for ancient DNA
research because we can do so much now that we couldn't do a few
years ago because of advances in sequencing technologies,
study co-author Dr.
Ripan Malhi, an anthropology professor at the University of
Illinois and Institute for Genomic Biology professor, said in a
written statement. Were just starting to get an idea
of the mitogenomic diversity in the Americas, in the living individuals
as well as the ancient individuals.
The new study was published online on June 3, 2013 in the journal