Genetic study reveals Pleistocene epoch ancestry of Pacific Northwest Native Americans

Researchers report the genetic ancestry of indigenous Pacific Northwest populations based on ancient genome sequences. The Pacific Northwest Coast of North America played a potentially significant role in the initial peopling of the Americas. Research on the demographic history of this region has been hindered by the limited availability of ancient genomic data. Ripen Malhi and colleagues sequenced the genome of an ancient individual from southeastern Alaska from remains dated to approximately 10,300 years ago, as well as the genomes of two individuals from coastal British Columbia dated to 2,500 and 1,750 years ago. Comparison of the genome sequences with previously published ancient genomes from the Pacific Northwest and modern indigenous genomic data suggest that all three newly sequenced individuals share a common ancestry with the modern indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. Two other ancient individuals from the northwestern United States, dated to the same time period, appeared to belong to a separate lineage ancestral to modern Central and South American populations. According to the authors, the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest might belong to a genetic lineage dating back to at least 10,000 years, possibly stemming from the initial peopling of the region, and population structure may have existed in North America as far back as the late Pleistocene. State the researchers in the report, “we conclude from individuals sampled through time that people of the northern Northwest Coast belong to an early genetic lineage that may stem from a late Pleistocene coastal migration into the Americas”*.



A smoky day at the Sugar Bowl—A Hupa Pacific Northwest Native American.  By Edward S. Curtis, Photographer 1868-1952


Article Source: PNAS news release


*“Ancient individuals from the North American Northwest Coast reveal 10,000 years of regional genetic continuity,” by John Lindo et al.


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