A three-stage colonization model for the peopling of the Americas

Kitchen D, Miyamoto MM, Mulligan CJ, A three-stage colonization model for the peopling of the Americas
PLoS ONE, 2(9):e829., 2008-01-16

Abstract [-]: Background We evaluate the process by which the Americas were originally colonized and propose a three-stage model that integrates current genetic, archaeological, geological, and paleoecological data. Specifically, we analyze mitochondrial and nuclear genetic data by using complementary coalescent models of demographic history and incorporating non-genetic data to enhance the anthropological relevance of the analysis. Methodology/Findings Bayesian skyline plots, which provide dynamic representations of population size changes over time, indicate that Amerinds went through two stages of growth ≈40,000 and ≈15,000 years ago separated by a long period of population stability. Isolation-with-migration coalescent analyses, which utilize data from sister populations to estimate a divergence date and founder population sizes, suggest an Amerind population expansion starting ≈15,000 years ago. Conclusions/Significance These results support a model for the peopling of the New World in which Amerind ancestors diverged from the Asian gene pool prior to 40,000 years ago and experienced a gradual population expansion as they moved into Beringia. After a long period of little change in population size in greater Beringia, Amerinds rapidly expanded into the Americas ≈15,000 years ago either through an interior ice-free corridor or along the coast. This rapid colonization of the New World was achieved by a founder group with an effective population size of ≈1,000-5,400 individuals. Our model presents a detailed scenario for the timing and scale of the initial migration to the Americas, substantially refines the estimate of New World founders, and provides a unified theory for testing with future datasets and analytic methods.

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