The modern European gene pool is likely a bit confused now, with international travel spreading people far and wide. However, in the case of native Europeans whose family never left the continent, it has been found that they likely boast a cocktail of genetic information from three distinct "tribes" of ancestors.
That's according to a study recently published in the journal Nature, which details how a mysterious population with Siberian roots also contributed to the mysterious genetic landscape of ancient Europe.
Prior to this discovery, it had been assumed that the Europeans originally consisted of only two groups: unassuming pale skinned farmers and darker skinned hunters, complete with stunning blue eyes.
Now, evidence resulting from genetic analysis from nine ancient European remains found in Sweden, Luxembourg, and Germany, who lived between 8,000 and 7,000 years ago, tells a different story. These ancient samples were compared to the DNA sequencing of more than 2,300 present-day people from around the world, and connections were drawn.
According to the study, seven of the nine remains were of the aforementioned swarthy blue-eyed hunter-gatherers. While their genetic profile is not a good match for any modern European, it was found that their genes live on in smalls ways. These genes mixed with the profile of Europe's earliest farmers, who boast the pale skin and brown eyes commonly seen today.
"Nearly all Europeans have ancestry from all three ancestral groups," Iosif Lazaridis, first author of the study, said in a statement. "Differences between them are due to the relative proportions of ancestry. Northern Europeans have more hunter-gatherer ancestry - up to about 50 percent in Lithuanians - and Southern Europeans have more farmer ancestry."
He adds that the third group "of ancient North Eurasian ancestry is proportionally the smallest component everywhere in Europe, never more than 20 percent, but we find it in nearly every European group we've studied."
This last genetic group also explains the recently discovered genetic connection between Europeans and Native Americans, where remains of ancient Siberians indicate that these European contributors also were from the group that crossed the Bering Straight into the Americas more than 15,000 years ago.
"We are only starting to understand the complex genetic relationship of our ancestors," added co-author Johannes Krause. "Only more genetic data from ancient human remains will allow us to disentangle our prehistoric past."
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