Inferring population continuity versus replacement with aDNA: A cautionary tale from the aleutian Islands

Silvia E. Smith, M. Geoffrey Hayes, Graciela S. Cabana, Chad Huff, Joan Brenner Coltrain, Dennis H. O'rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

In The Aleutian and Commander Islands and Their Inhabitants (Philadelphia: Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, 1945), Hrdlika proposed a population replacement event in the Aleutian Islands approximately 1,000 years ago based on a perceived temporal shift in cranial morphology. However, the archaeological record indicates cultural, and presumed population, continuity for more than 4,000 years. We use mtDNA haplogroup data in the series of prehistoric eastern Aleutian samples (n = 86) studied craniometrically by Hrdlika to test alternative hypotheses regarding population continuity or replacement in the region. This molecular characterization, in conjunction with direct dating of individual specimens, provided increased resolution for hypothesis testing. Results indicate an apparent shift in mtDNA haplogroup frequencies in the eastern Aleutians approximately 1,000 years ago, in concert with changes in mortuary practices and isotopic signatures reflecting resource acquisition strategies. The earliest Aleut populations were characterized by a high frequency of haplogroup A, as are most modern populations of the North American arctic. Later prehistoric peoples in the Aleutians were characterized by a high frequency of haplogroup D and a correspondingly lower frequency of haplogroup A, a pattern typified by modern Aleut populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-426
Number of pages20
JournalHuman Biology
Volume81
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009

Keywords

  • Aleutian Islands
  • Ancient DNA
  • Population continuity
  • Replacement
  • mtDNA haplogroups

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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