Evidence of another ancient European ancestor found

| | September 19, 2014

For those who eagerly trace their genetic lineage or subscribe online to find their earliest ancestors, there’s a new group to consider adding to the furthest reaches of your list.

A previously unrecognized population of ancient north Eurasians may be a major third braid in the genetic twist that gave rise to most modern Europeans and their kin.

Scientists have known from previous work that more than 8,000 years ago, a population of dark-haired, light-eyed hunter-gatherers from Western Europe, and a group of dark-haired, brown-eyed farmers from the Near East got together and had kids. But new data suggest a third group from north Eurasia may have swaggered into the ancient party many years later — after agriculture was introduced — contrary to previous thought. These traveling Eurasians are evidence that people were moving into Europe later than expected, scientists now say, after the continent was already densely settled.

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The evidence, from a team led by geneticist David Reich, at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Johannes Krause, at the University of Tübingen, in Germany, was published Wednesday in Nature.

“We were using the whole genome,” Reich tells Shots, which means they compared the DNA libraries of each individual, looking for areas in the genome that are variable among different populations. In the end, their statistical analysis found that a computer model incorporating these three very different populations of ancestors seemed to best explain the genetic patterns seen among most Europeans today.

Read the full, original story: Europe’s family tree gets a new branch

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