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DNA Analysis And The Tale Of A Native American Group

According to a new study, the ancient genomes of the Tsimshian indigenous people has revealed that at least 6,000 years ago their population size was on a slow and steady decline. The American Journal of Human Genetics published the findings, which draw from the first population-level nuclear DNA analysis.

John Lindo, a geneticist in Emory University's Department of Anthropology and first author on the paper stated that these findings contradict a popular notion- "There is this idea that after Native Americans came in through the Bering Strait that they were all expanding in population size until Europeans showed up” Lindo said. Nuclear DNA helps in providing information on an individual's lineages going back hundreds of thousands of years. The Tsimshian people lived in longhouses in coastal British Columbia and southern Alaska. They were involved in harvesting the abundant sea life. Lindo and his colleagues sequenced the genomes of 25 living Tsimshian people and 25 ancient individuals who lived in the same region between 6,000 and 500 years ago. The study focussed at broader genetic variations between the ancient and modern DNA. An analysis showed both how the variation declined slowly in the ancient population before the collapse, but later recovered. The variations in the genetic diversity came up as a result of Intermarriage with other Native American groups and non-native populations. High genetic diversity also means high potential to fight diseases. It demonstrates the benefits of gene flow between populations, precisely following catastrophic events such as the small pox epidemics that the Tsimshian endured.Lindo is still continuing the tradition of building trust and working closely with indigenous populations.

By: Anuja Arora


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