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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008 Nov;137(3):342-7. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20887.

An ancient DNA test of a founder effect in Native American ABO blood group frequencies.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Anthropologists have assumed that reduced genetic diversity in extant Native Americans is due to a founder effect that occurred during the initial peopling of the Americas. However, low diversity could also be the result of subsequent historical events, such as the population decline following European contact. In this study, we show that autosomal DNA from ancient Native American skeletal remains can be used to investigate the low level of ABO blood group diversity in the Americas. Extant Native Americans exhibit a high frequency of blood type O, which may reflect a founder effect, genetic drift associated with the historical population decline, or natural selection in response to the smallpox epidemics that occurred following European contact. To help distinguish between these possibilities, we determined the ABO genotypes of 15 precontact individuals from eastern North America. The precontact ABO frequencies were not significantly different from those observed in extant Native Americans from the same region, but they did differ significantly from the ABO frequencies in extant Siberian populations. Studies of other precontact populations are needed to better test the three hypotheses for low ABO blood group diversity in the Americas, but our findings are most consistent with the hypothesis of a founder effect during the initial settlement of this continent.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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