Monday, April 28, 2014

Who Am I? The Genographic Project (Part 1)

For Christmas last year I received a great present - a DNA kit to take part in the National Geographic's Genographic Project. The idea is a simple one - you supply a DNA sample (inside cheek cells), and send it off to be analysed. A few weeks later, the results are available on-line. In the first of a series of posts this week I am sharing my own results - this will be of most interest to my family, so if you are not an O'Loughlin or a Byrne, I won't be offended if you close this page now!

The first surprising thing to find out is that the common direct maternal ancestor to all women alive today was born in East Africa around 180,000 years ago, and that the common direct paternal ancestor of all men alive today was born in Africa around 140,000 years ago. Not quite Adam and Eve as they lived 40,000 years apart and they were not the only man and woman alive at those times. But only their direct ancestors survive today.

The first result from my DNA was both unsurprising and surprising at the same time:

The 42% Northern European is a component of my ancestry that is found at highest frequency in northern European populations—people from the UK, Denmark, Finland, Russia and Germany in the Genographic Project's reference populations. I am 37% Mediterranean (people from Sardinia, Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia), and 19% Southwest Asian (this component of my ancestry is found at highest frequencies in India and neighbouring populations, including Tajikistan and Iran). The big surprise was to discover that I am "2%" Native American! There isn't an explanation of this on the Genographic Project site - all it says about this is:

This component of your ancestry is found at highest frequency in the populations of the Americas. It represents the signal of the original settlers of North and South America who arrived via the Bering land bridge between 15-20,000 years ago. Interestingly, the only other place in the world where it is found—at frequencies of 2-3%—is in central Siberia and Mongolia, the likely place of origin of the first Native Americans.

My results were most similar to the Northern European reference population that is primarily German:

The dominant 46% Northern European component likely reflects the earliest settlers in Europe, hunter-gatherers who arrived there more than 35,000 years ago. The 36% Mediterranean and 17% Southwest Asian percentages probably arrived later, with the spread of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East over the past 10,000 years.

My second reference population is Greek:

The results tell me:

This reference population is based on samples collected from the native population of Greece. The 54% Mediterranean and 17% Southwest Asian percentages reflect the strong influence of agriculturalists from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, who arrived here more than 8,000 years ago. The 28% Northern European component likely comes from the pre-agricultural population of Europe—the earliest settlers, who arrived more than 35,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic period. Today, this component predominates in northern European populations, while the Mediterranean component is more common in southern Europe.

More results tomorrow!

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