Pinpointing The Geographic Origins Of Europeans From Their DNA

Last month, I read and reviewed two papers that correlated the genetic and linguistic structure of European populations to their geographic locations. A new paper came out several days ago in Nature which announces a new model where the genetics of 3,200 Europeans is used to predict their country of origin, with an accuracy of a few hundred kilometers.

The paper, “Genes mirror geography within Europe,” comes from John Novembre and crew. They got their data from GlaxoSmithKline. 500,000 SNPs were compared and when they were plotted after two principle component analyses, the authors were able to see distinct clustering of geographically distinct populations. This is the image they provided.

Genetic & Geographic Separation of European Populations
Genetic & Geographic Separation of European Populations

Placing a map under this distribution shows how distinct the Iberian peninsula is from the Italian peninsula and within the ‘mixing pot’ French, German and Italian-speaking Swiss individuals are genetically separated. To touch on the accuracy issue again, with countries that had more individuals represented in the sample, this new method could pinpoint their origins to 310 kilometers. On average, the accuracy was able to identify an individual’s origins to 540km.

As P-ter of Gene Expression points out, the biggest restriction to this study is the array of SNPs on the GeneChip and the number of individuals sampled. With higher resolution GeneChips, ideally full genomes, and larger samples, we’ll be able see much more accurate genetic-geographic separations of populations.

    John Novembre, Toby Johnson, Katarzyna Bryc, Zoltán Kutalik, Adam R. Boyko, Adam Auton, Amit Indap, Karen S. King, Sven Bergmann, Matthew R. Nelson, Matthew Stephens, Carlos D. Bustamante (2008). Genes mirror geography within Europe Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature07331

4 thoughts on “Pinpointing The Geographic Origins Of Europeans From Their DNA

  1. The large assay of SNPs from Europeans just shows that the origins of Europeans, other than simply looking at their external appearance, can be traced using SNPs provided the list of SNPs is large enough.

    What I want to know as a European is not where I come from, I know that already, but where do Europeans originate. All Europeans are from somewhere else, i.e immigrants, the difference is when they arrived in Europe. Where did the East European types come from? Where the classic Nordid Europeans? Where the thicker set Central and North Europeans? Most people accept that Southern Europeans are directly from the Middle East from Neolithic times but the rest of Europeans, no one knows.

  2. What’s up guys? Didn’t Europeans have a language. If so, did they not know how to write? Is this why you cannot find their orgin in their own story? This must be frustrating indeed. Maybe they did not begin in Europe, but in a part of Alkebulon which you called Europe today. If you place them in Turkey or Iraq all you need to do; is look at a legit map of the ancient world. keep in mind there was a time when Europe did not exist, therefore Europeans could not be present nowhere on planet-Ship-Earth…Fact.

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