• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of pnasPNASInfo for AuthorsSubscriptionsAboutThis Article
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb 1, 1994; 91(3): 1158–1162.
PMCID: PMC521473

Mitochondrial DNA "clock" for the Amerinds and its implications for timing their entry into North America.


Students of the time of entry of the ancestors of the Amerinds into the New World are divided into two camps, one favoring an "early" entry [more than approximately 30,000 years before the present (YBP)], the other favoring a "late" entry (less than approximately 13,000 YBP). An "intermediate" date is unlikely for geological reasons. The correlation of the appropriate data on mtDNA variation in Amerinds with linguistic, archaeological, and genetic data offers the possibility of establishing a time frame for mtDNA evolution in Amerinds. In this paper, we estimate that the separation of the Chibcha-speaking tribes of Central America from other linguistic groups/nascent tribes began approximately 8000-10,000 YBP. Characterization of the mtDNA of 110 Chibcha speakers with 14 restriction enzymes leads on the basis of their time depth to an estimated mtDNA nucleotide substitution rate for Amerinds of 0.022-0.029% per 10,000 years. As a first application of this rate, we consider the mtDNA variation observed in 18 Amerind tribes widely dispersed throughout the Americas and studied by ourselves with the same techniques, and we estimate that if the Amerinds entered the New World as a single group, that entry occurred approximately 22,000-29,000 YBP. This estimate carries a large but indeterminate error. The mtDNA data are thus at present equivocal with respect to the most likely times of entry of the Amerind into the New World mentioned above but favor the "early" entry hypothesis.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.2M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Images in this article

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Hoffecker JF, Powers WR, Goebel T. The colonization of beringia and the peopling of the new world. Science. 1993 Jan 1;259(5091):46–53. [PubMed]
  • Wallace DC, Garrison K, Knowler WC. Dramatic founder effects in Amerindian mitochondrial DNAs. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1985 Oct;68(2):149–155. [PubMed]
  • Schurr TG, Ballinger SW, Gan YY, Hodge JA, Merriwether DA, Lawrence DN, Knowler WC, Weiss KM, Wallace DC. Amerindian mitochondrial DNAs have rare Asian mutations at high frequencies, suggesting they derived from four primary maternal lineages. Am J Hum Genet. 1990 Mar;46(3):613–623. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Torroni A, Schurr TG, Yang CC, Szathmary EJ, Williams RC, Schanfield MS, Troup GA, Knowler WC, Lawrence DN, Weiss KM, et al. Native American mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that the Amerind and the Nadene populations were founded by two independent migrations. Genetics. 1992 Jan;130(1):153–162. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Torroni A, Schurr TG, Cabell MF, Brown MD, Neel JV, Larsen M, Smith DG, Vullo CM, Wallace DC. Asian affinities and continental radiation of the four founding Native American mtDNAs. Am J Hum Genet. 1993 Sep;53(3):563–590. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Williams RC, Steinberg AG, Gershowitz H, Bennett PH, Knowler WC, Pettitt DJ, Butler W, Baird R, Dowda-Rea L, Burch TA, et al. GM allotypes in Native Americans: evidence for three distinct migrations across the Bering land bridge. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1985 Jan;66(1):1–19. [PubMed]
  • Callegari-Jacques SM, Salzano FM, Constans J, Maurieres P. Gm haplotype distribution in Amerindians: relationship with geography and language. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1993 Apr;90(4):427–444. [PubMed]
  • Torroni A, Sukernik RI, Schurr TG, Starikorskaya YB, Cabell MF, Crawford MH, Comuzzie AG, Wallace DC. mtDNA variation of aboriginal Siberians reveals distinct genetic affinities with Native Americans. Am J Hum Genet. 1993 Sep;53(3):591–608. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Barrantes R, Smouse PE, Mohrenweiser HW, Gershowitz H, Azofeifa J, Arias TD, Neel JV. Microevolution in lower Central America: genetic characterization of the Chibcha-speaking groups of Costa Rica and Panama, and a consensus taxonomy based on genetic and linguistic affinity. Am J Hum Genet. 1990 Jan;46(1):63–84. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Saiki RK, Scharf S, Faloona F, Mullis KB, Horn GT, Erlich HA, Arnheim N. Enzymatic amplification of beta-globin genomic sequences and restriction site analysis for diagnosis of sickle cell anemia. Science. 1985 Dec 20;230(4732):1350–1354. [PubMed]
  • Johnson MJ, Wallace DC, Ferris SD, Rattazzi MC, Cavalli-Sforza LL. Radiation of human mitochondria DNA types analyzed by restriction endonuclease cleavage patterns. J Mol Evol. 1983;19(3-4):255–271. [PubMed]
  • Cann RL, Wilson AC. Length mutations in human mitochondrial DNA. Genetics. 1983 Aug;104(4):699–711. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Nei M, Tajima F. Maximum likelihood estimation of the number of nucleotide substitutions from restriction sites data. Genetics. 1983 Sep;105(1):207–217. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Anderson S, Bankier AT, Barrell BG, de Bruijn MH, Coulson AR, Drouin J, Eperon IC, Nierlich DP, Roe BA, Sanger F, et al. Sequence and organization of the human mitochondrial genome. Nature. 1981 Apr 9;290(5806):457–465. [PubMed]
  • Spielman RS, Migliazza EC, Neel JV. Regional linguistic and genetic differences among Yanomama indians. Science. 1974 May 10;184(4137):637–644. [PubMed]
  • Neel JV. The population structure of an Amerindian tribe, the Yanomama. Annu Rev Genet. 1978;12:365–413. [PubMed]
  • Tanis R, Ferrell RE, Nell JV, Morrow M. Albumin Yanomama-2, a 'private' polymorphism of serum albumin. Ann Hum Genet. 1974 Oct;38(2):179–190. [PubMed]
  • Thompson EA. Estimation of age and rate of increase of rare variants. Am J Hum Genet. 1976 Sep;28(5):442–452. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Brown WM, George M, Jr, Wilson AC. Rapid evolution of animal mitochondrial DNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1979 Apr;76(4):1967–1971. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Thompson EA, Neel JV, Smouse PE, Barrantes R. Microevolution of the Chibcha-speaking peoples of lower Central America: rare genes in an Amerindian complex. Am J Hum Genet. 1992 Sep;51(3):609–626. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...