Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reconstructing the genetic architecture of the "extinct" Taínos

The Taínos were the first Native Americans to meet European explorers in the Caribbean, and as the all too familiar story goes, they were completely wiped out by European disease and violence. Carlos Bustamante from Stanford University has begun to elucidate the genetic structure of this extinct ethnicity from the genomes of modern Puerto Ricans. The inclusion of 70 modern Puerto Rican sequences in the 1000 Genomes project has revealed a mosaic of African, European, and Native American (Taíno) DNA. By estimating the length of African, European, and Native American DNA segments, Bustamante has been able to reconstruct the timing and duration of admixture events. As expected, segments unique to Taínos indicate a short burst of admixture which concurs with historical facts (Taínos were likely extirpated soon after the arrival of Europeans). The African and European segments are quite variable and suggest several waves of migration. The analysis is only in it's preliminary stages, and Bustamante hopes to gain further insight into the ancestral Native American genome.

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