Updated three-stage model for the peopling of the Americas

PLoS One. 2008 Sep 17;3(9):e3199. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003199.


Background: We re-assess support for our three stage model for the peopling of the Americas in light of a recent report that identified nine non-Native American mitochondrial genome sequences that should not have been included in our initial analysis. Removal of these sequences results in the elimination of an early (i.e. approximately 40,000 years ago) expansion signal we had proposed for the proto-Amerind population.

Methodology/findings: Bayesian skyline plot analysis of a new dataset of Native American mitochondrial coding genomes confirms the absence of an early expansion signal for the proto-Amerind population and allows us to reduce the variation around our estimate of the New World founder population size. In addition, genetic variants that define New World founder haplogroups are used to estimate the amount of time required between divergence of proto-Amerinds from the Asian gene pool and expansion into the New World.

Conclusions/significance: The period of population isolation required for the generation of New World mitochondrial founder haplogroup-defining genetic variants makes the existence of three stages of colonization a logical conclusion. Thus, our three stage model remains an important and useful working hypothesis for researchers interested in the peopling of the Americas and the processes of colonization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Americas
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Ethnicity
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / genetics
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Software


  • DNA, Mitochondrial