Research ArticlePHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Evolutionary population history of early Paleoamerican cranial morphology

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Science Advances  22 Feb 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 2, e1602289
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602289

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Abstract

The nature and timing of the peopling of the Americas is a subject of intense debate. In particular, it is unclear whether high levels of between-group craniometric diversity in South America result from multiple migrations or from local diversification processes. Previous attempts to explain this diversity have largely focused on testing alternative dispersal or gene flow models, reaching conflicting or inconclusive results. Here, a novel analytical framework is applied to three-dimensional geometric morphometric data to partition the effects of population divergence from geographically mediated gene flow to understand the ancestry of the early South Americans in the context of global human history. The results show that Paleoamericans share a last common ancestor with contemporary Native American groups outside, rather than inside, the Americas. Therefore, and in accordance with some recent genomic studies, craniometric data suggest that the New World was populated by multiple waves of dispersion from northeast Asia throughout the late Pleistocene and early Holocene.

Keywords
  • cranial shape
  • geometric morphometrics
  • population history
  • peopling of Americas

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