The human genetic history of the Americas: the final frontier

Curr Biol. 2010 Feb 23;20(4):R202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.051.


The Americas, the last continents to be entered by modern humans, were colonized during the late Pleistocene via a land bridge across what is now the Bering strait. However, the timing and nature of the initial colonization events remain contentious. The Asian origin of the earliest Americans has been amply established by numerous classical marker studies of the mid-twentieth century. More recently, mtDNA sequences, Y-chromosome and autosomal marker studies have provided a higher level of resolution in confirming the Asian origin of indigenous Americans and provided more precise time estimates for the emergence of Native Americans. But these data raise many additional questions regarding source populations, number and size of colonizing groups and the points of entry to the Americas. Rapidly accumulating molecular data from populations throughout the Americas, increased use of demographic models to test alternative colonization scenarios, and evaluation of the concordance of archaeological, paleoenvironmental and genetic data provide optimism for a fuller understanding of the initial colonization of the Americas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cultural Evolution*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Genetic Markers / genetics
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / genetics*
  • Indians, North American / history*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Motor Activity / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Genetic Markers