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 Anthropology.net, "With higher resolution GeneChips, ideally full genomes, and larger samples, we’ll be able see much more accurate genetic-geographic separations of populations."
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.”