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Ann Hum Genet. 1999 Sep;63(Pt 5):413-28.

Phylogeographic patterns of mtDNA reflecting the colonization of the Canary Islands.

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Departamento de Genética, Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.


Although the Canary Islands were settled by humans, possibly of Berber origin, as late as 2500 years ago, the precise course and numbers of early migrations to the archipelago remain controversial. We have therefore analysed mtDNA variation (HVS-I as well as selected RFLP sites) in 300 individuals from the seven Canary Islands. The distribution and variation across the islands in a specific mtDNA clade of Northwest African ancestry suggest that there was one dominant initial settlement process that affected all the islands, from east to west. This indicates that a certain genetic affinity of present-day Canary Islanders to Northwest African Berbers mainly stems from the autochthonous population rather than slaves captured on the neighbouring African coast. The slave trade after the European conquest left measurable, though minor, traces in the mtDNA pool of the Canary Islands, which in its majority testifies to the European immigration.

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