Editors' ChoiceHuman Genetics

Genetics of the great migration

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Science  08 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6295, pp. 134-135
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6295.134-f

Slavery shaped the genetic diversity of African Americans.

CREDIT: “THE GOOBER-GATHERERS,” 1890 (ENGRAVING), BRADLEY, HORACE (FL. 1890)/PRIVATE COLLECTION/PETER NEWARK AMERICAN PICTURES/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

The African American population is underrepresented in genetic studies, and their history of slavery, systemic discrimination, and migration probably shaped their genetic diversity. To better understand this, Baharian et al. analyzed the genetic variation in 3736 individuals from three cohorts representing the diversity of African Americans across the United States. These data identified historical events in the movement and admixture (interbreeding of isolated groups) of African Americans, including the fact that about 1.2% of their ancestry is Native American, which probably traces back to the early period of slavery. Overall, the data illustrate how differences in social opportunity over centuries can shape the genetic diversity of a population.

PLOS Genet. 12, e1006059 (2016).

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