Evidence for gradients of human genetic diversity within and among continents

Genome Res. 2004 Sep;14(9):1679-85. doi: 10.1101/gr.2529604.


Genetic variation in humans is sometimes described as being discontinuous among continents or among groups of individuals, and by some this has been interpreted as genetic support for "races." A recent study in which >350 microsatellites were studied in a global sample of humans showed that they could be grouped according to their continental origin, and this was widely interpreted as evidence for a discrete distribution of human genetic diversity. Here, we investigate how study design can influence such conclusions. Our results show that when individuals are sampled homogeneously from around the globe, the pattern seen is one of gradients of allele frequencies that extend over the entire world, rather than discrete clusters. Therefore, there is no reason to assume that major genetic discontinuities exist between different continents or "races."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics*
  • Ethnicity / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genotype
  • Geography*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Racial Groups / genetics*


  • DNA