Since 2010, genome-wide data from hundreds of ancient Native Americans have contributed to the understanding of Americas’ prehistory. However, these samples have never been studied as a single dataset, and distinct relationships among themselves and with present-day populations may have never come to light. Here, we reassess genomic diversity and population structure of 223 ancient Native Americans published between 2010 and 2019.
Materials and Methods
The genomic data from ancient Americas was merged with a worldwide reference panel of 278 present-day genomes from the Simons Genome Diversity Project and then analyzed through ADMIXTURE, D-statistics, PCA, t-SNE, and UMAP.
We find largely similar population structures in ancient and present-day Americas. However, the population structure of contemporary Native Americans, traced here to at least 10,000 years before present, is noticeably less diverse than their ancient counterparts, a possible outcome of the European contact. Additionally, in the past there were greater levels of population structure in North than in South America, except for ancient Brazil, which harbors comparatively high degrees of structure. Moreover, we find a component of genetic ancestry in the ancient dataset that is closely related to that of present-day Oceanic populations but does not correspond to the previously reported Australasian signal. Lastly, we report an expansion of the Ancient Beringian ancestry, previously reported for only one sample.
Overall, our findings support a complex scenario for the settlement of the Americas, accommodating the occurrence of founder effects and the emergence of ancestral mixing events at the regional level.