Ancestral GPS – Pinpointing the Geographic Origin of Autosomal DNA Sequences

image I’ve been meaning to write about recent two papers, one in Current Biology and one in Nature, that attempt to identify and characterize a relationship between genetic sequence or SNP and geography.  Amazingly, both papers found a very strong correlation between genetics and geography.

From a news article regarding the paper in Nature (note that I haven’t verified that the paper supports the statement; HT: Yann Klimentidis’ Weblog):

"The map was so accurate that when Novembre’s team placed a geopolitical map over their genetic "map", half of the genomes landed within 310 kilometres of their country of origin, while 90% fell within 700 km."

Although there are some caveats, for example in one of the papers all of an individual’s grandparents had to have similar geographic origins in order for the method to identify ancestry, these types of studies will continue to discover and refine the methods and findings.  As Kambiz stated at, "With higher resolution GeneChips, ideally full genomes, and larger samples, we’ll be able see much more accurate genetic-geographic separations of populations."

There has been much discussion of these papers in the blogosphere, including at the Spittoon (here and here), john hawks weblog, and Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog (here and here), just to name a few.

There is also a short but very interesting video associated with the Nature paper (HT: ScienceRoll – you were right Berci!).  From the video:

“If your ancestors came through Ellis Island you probably know their ethnicity but might have only a vague idea of exactly where they’re from. Now this amazing genetic map of Europe shows it is possible to pinpoint a person’s geographic origins to within a couple hundred miles with a simple DNA sample.”

6 Responses

  1. Somalid Berber 14 March 2009 / 12:55 am

    Lets not forget that there are two distinct races in Africa

    ***Somalid race***
    in North Africa
    Distinguished by its Somalid Y-DNA:
    E1b1b-M35 & T-M70

    ***Negrid race***
    in Subsahran Africa
    Distinguished by its Negrid Y-DNA:
    E1b1a-M2, A-M91 & B-M60

  2. GenF20HGH 28 January 2010 / 9:04 am

    In Europe a couple of hundred miles can put you in a completely different country. To pinpoint where your ancestors came from you need a much higher degree of accuracy. Perhaps with further developments the accuracy will improve. Only a few years ago much of the current developments were almost science fiction. I would love to be able to identify which country some of my ancestors came from.

Comments are closed.