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Same people, different origins

Students from the Ashaninka community in Pamaquiari, Peru

Global Humanitaria / Flickr

The Ashaninka Indigenous peoples of the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon form at least two distinct genetic groups, shaped by their interactions with other populations from the Andes and the Pacific coast. The unexpected genetic diversity was identified through genome analysis of 51 unrelated Ashaninka individuals from the Peruvian Amazon by geneticists, archaeologists, linguists, and anthropologists from Italy, Ireland, Peru, Argentina, the USA, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Brazil. On a continental scale, the Ashaninka ancestors probably date back to a south-to-north migration of Indigenous people who moved into the Amazon rainforest from an area in the southeast, with genetic contributions from individuals living in the Southern Cone. The analyses also revealed connections between the ancestors of today’s Ashaninka and groups that migrated to the Caribbean. Contact with Europeans in the seventeenth century caused a major population decline, primarily because of diseases against which the natives had no immunity (Current Biology, March 16).