Ancient mtDNA was successfully recovered from 24 skeletal samples of a total of 60 ancient individuals from Patagonia-Tierra del Fuego, dated to 100-400 years BP, for which consistent amplifications and two-strand sequences were obtained. Y-chromosome STRs (DYS434, DYS437, DYS439, DYS393, DYS391, DYS390, DYS19, DYS389I, DYS389II, and DYS388) and the biallelic system DYS199 were also amplified, Y-STR alleles could be characterized in nine cases, with an average of 4.1 loci per sample correctly typed. In two samples of the same ethnic group (Aonikenk), an identical and complete eight-loci haplotype was recovered. The DYS199 biallelic system was used as a control of contamination by modern DNA and, along with DYS19, as a marker of American origin. The analysis of both mtDNA and Y-STRs revealed DNA from Amerindian ancestry. The observed polymorphisms are consistent with the hypothesis that the ancient Fuegians are close to populations from south-central Chile and Argentina, but their high nucleotide diversity and the frequency of single lineages strongly support early genetic differentiation of the Fuegians through combined processes of population bottleneck, isolation, and/or migration, followed by strong genetic drift. This suggests an early genetic diversification of the Fuegians right after their arrival at the southernmost extreme of South America.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.