Unexpected patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation among Native Americans from the southeastern United States

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2003 Dec;122(4):336-54. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.10284.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups were determined by restriction fragment length polymorphism-typing for 66 individuals from four southeastern North American populations, and the HVS I portion of the mtDNA control region was sequenced in 48 of these individuals. Although populations from the same geographic region usually exhibit similar haplogroup frequency distributions (Lorenz and Smith [1996] Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 101:307-323; Malhi et al. [2001] Hum. Biol. 73:17-55), those from the Southeast instead exhibit haplogroup frequency distributions that differ significantly from one another. Such divergent haplogroup frequency distributions are unexpected for the Muskogean-speaking southeastern populations, which share many sociocultural traits, speak closely related languages, and have experienced extensive admixture both with each other and with other eastern North American populations. Independent origins, genetic isolation from other Native American populations due to matrilocality, differential admixture, or a genetic bottleneck could be responsible for this heterogeneous distribution of haplogroup frequencies. Within a given haplogroup, however, the HVS I sequences from the four Muskogean-speaking populations appear relatively similar to one another, providing evidence for close relationships among them and for reduced diversity within haplogroups in the Southeast. Given additional archaeological, linguistic, and ethnographic evidence, these results suggest that a genetic bottleneck associated with the historical population decline is the most plausible explanation for such patterns of mtDNA variation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Geography
  • Haplotypes / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Population Dynamics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Southeastern United States


  • DNA, Mitochondrial