As reported by Health Thoroughfare, studying the ancient genomes of the Tsimshian people revealed traces of their past, showing that almost 6,000 years ago, the population started to constantly decline.
The study was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, after a team of researchers analyzed the population of Native Americans from ancient times until present.
Until these findings, scientists believed that Native Americans have made their way to Bering Strait and the population grew until Europeans arrived. But now, researchers found a different side of the story. John Lindo (Emory University’s Department of Anthropology) explains their findings:
“The analysis of old nuclear DNA is a relatively new field.”
Using nuclear DNA helps scientists see a person’s bloodline which can be traced thousands of years back. Lindo and other geneticists started sequencing ancient genomes of Native Americans, trying to find out how DNA helped different groups of ancient people survive in time.
Looking at the Tsimshian people’s DNA, they saw that even the modern-day members have varied genomes. Scientists knew that it was the result of a constant evolution.
The main occupation of the Tsimshian people was fishing, as they lived South of Alaska and on the coast of British Columbia.
John Lindo and his team started taking DNA from 25 ancient Tsimshian people and 25 people that represent the modern-day Native American group. Researchers managed to sequence their DNA to demonstrate that the population’s DNA continued to evolve in time. The first results showed that there were enormous differences between the ancient DNA and the modern DNA, regarding the immune system.
He said that Tsimshian people’s DNA has naturally mutated to become immune to different illnesses. that was because they became more exposed to pathogens.
When the Europeans colonized the Americas, the Tsimshian population was decimated by an epidemy of smallpox. A way to survive through the new illnesses brought by Europeans was through intermarriages of the remaining Tsimshian people with Europeans or with other Native Europeans. This led to a genetic diversity, explains Lindo: “a population with relatively high genetic diversity has a greater potential to fight off pathogens and avoid recessive traits.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.