In DepthHuman Evolutionary Genetics

Light skin may be legacy of Native American ancestors

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Science  25 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6425, pp. 333
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6425.333

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Summary

Walk down a busy street in most Latin American cities today and you'll see a palette of skin colors from dark brown to sepia to cream. For 500 years, people have assumed this variation comes from the meeting and mixing of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans during colonial times and later. People with lighter skin are thought to have more European ancestry, whereas those with darker skin are taken to have more Native American or African ancestry—and are often targeted for discrimination. Now, a new study of the genes of more than 6000 people from five Latin American countries undercuts the simplistic racial assumptions often made from skin color. An international team discovered a new genetic variant associated with lighter skin found only in Native American and East Asian populations. That means that in Latin America, lighter skin can reflect Native American as well as European ancestry.