February 21, 2018

Caribbean Taino ancient DNA still alive in admixed populations

Taino Native Americans also had a very high genetic diversity, comparable to other continental large native populations such as Andeans or Amazonians, what speaks of high mobility in the Caribbean islands before European colonization.

The mitochondrial lineage B2 was sequenced, although it is today rare in the region.

Hannes Schroeder et al., Origins and genetic legacies of the Caribbean Taino. PNAS 2018. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1716839115

The Caribbean was one of the last parts of the Americas to be settled by humans, but how and when the islands were first occupied remains a matter of debate. Ancient DNA can help answering these questions, but the work has been hampered by poor DNA preservation. We report the genome sequence of a 1,000-year-old Lucayan Taino individual recovered from the site of Preacher’s Cave in the Bahamas. We sequenced her genome to 12.4-fold coverage and show that she is genetically most closely related to present-day Arawakan speakers from northern South America, suggesting that the ancestors of the Lucayans originated there. Further, we find no evidence for recent inbreeding or isolation in the ancient genome, suggesting that the Lucayans had a relatively large effective population size. Finally, we show that the native American components in some present-day Caribbean genomes are closely related to the ancient Taino, demonstrating an element of continuity between precontact populations and present-day Latino populations in the Caribbean.

Fig. 2.
Taino demography. Total estimated length of genomic ROH for the Taino and the Clovis genome (13) and selected Native American and Siberian genomes (15, 31, 32) in a series of length categories. ROH distributions for modern individuals have been condensed into population-level silhouettes (SI Appendix, section 14).

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