Ancient human parallel lineages within North America contributed to a coastal expansion

Founder effects in modern populations

The genomes of ancient humans can reveal patterns of early human migration (see the Perspective by Achilli et al.). Iceland has a genetically distinct population, despite relatively recent settlement (∼1100 years ago). Ebenesersdóttir et al. examined the genomes of ancient Icelandic people, dating to near the colonization of Iceland, and compared them with modernday Icelandic populations. The ancient DNA revealed that the founders had Gaelic and Norse origins. Genetic drift since the initial settlement has left modern Icelanders with allele frequencies that are distinctive, although still skewed toward those of their Norse founders. Scheib et al. sequenced ancient genomes from the Channel Islands of California, USA, and Ontario, Canada. The ancient Ontario population was similar to other ancient North Americans, as well as to modern Algonquian-speaking Native Americans. In contrast, the California individuals were more like groups that now live in Mexico and South America. It appears that a genetic split and population isolation likely occurred during the Ice Age, but the peoples remixed at a later date.

Science, this issue p. 1028, p. 1024; see also p. 964


Little is known regarding the first people to enter the Americas and their genetic legacy. Genomic analysis of the oldest human remains from the Americas showed a direct relationship between a Clovis-related ancestral population and all modern Central and South Americans as well as a deep split separating them from North Americans in Canada. We present 91 ancient human genomes from California and Southwestern Ontario and demonstrate the existence of two distinct ancestries in North America, which possibly split south of the ice sheets. A contribution from both of these ancestral populations is found in all modern Central and South Americans. The proportions of these two ancestries in ancient and modern populations are consistent with a coastal dispersal and multiple admixture events.

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