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Europeans did not preserve their African past

17.02.2006


Russian geneticist B.A. Malyarchuk, Institute of Biological Problems of the North, Far-Eastern Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, in Magadan, and Polish researcher J.Czarny have ascertained that African women’s contribution into the European genotype is much lower than it could have been expected, taking into consideration the lengthy history of contacts between representatives of different human races. The conclusion was made by the researchers after they had analyzed more than 17 thousand mitochondrial DNA samples from various populations of Europe and their evolutionary relationships.



The mitochondrial DNA sequences of various nations have their own peculiarities. Thus, there exist several mitochondrial DNA variants, which were formed in Africa. As mitochondria are passed on from generation to generation only maternally, their DNA analysis can tell us only about women of the kin.

About 1 percent of Eurasian population possesses mitochondrial DNA, identical or similar to the DNA of African descent. In the south of Europe, African lines of mitochondrial DNA are most frequently found with the Portuguese (5.8 percent), Sicilians and Tuscan, Albanians, Spaniards and Bosnians. Inhabitants of this region, the Pyrenean peninsula in particular, have experienced profound effect from the population of North Africa during their entire history, therefore, the researchers expected to discover in the European Mediterranean ancient and branchy “ family trees” originating from African progenitresses. However, they found nothing of the kind.


All African mitochondrion variants were apparently brought to Europe relatively not long ago. Thus, a lot of African lines appeared in Eurasia and America as a result of slave-trade thriving in the 15th –19th centuries. Only several mitochondrial DNA samples got in Europe approximately 6,500 years ago, but even this is a negligibly small term from the evolutionary point of view, given the long-standing contacts between Europe and Africa.

African mitochondria are borne by about 1 percent of the Caucasian inhabitants. But these mitochondria were obtained to all appearances from the Middle East, therefore there are no grounds to talk about Afro-Caucasian genetic ties. In the North of Europe, African lines of mitochondrial DNA are found with the French, Swiss, Germans, Poles, English, Norwegians and Icelanders. Besides, the researchers have discovered individual holders of the African variant of mitochondrial DNA among Russian population of the Tula and Kaluga regions.

It is rather complicated to explain the origin of mitochondrial DNA found in Russia. Having analyzed not only mitochondrial sequences but also some fragments of chromosomal DNA, the researchers came to the conclusion that the African DNA could not be considered a recent acquisition. Most probably, mitochondria left Africa several thousand years ago, where from they got into Western Europe first and from there - in inscrutable ways – into Central Russia.

The conclusion made by the geneticists is as follows: despite long-standing contacts between the European and African populations, the overwhelming majority of Europeans did not preserve in their cells the mitochondria obtainted from women of distant Africa in prehistoric times.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
Further information:
http://www.informnauka.ru

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