Demographic events and evolutionary forces shaping European genetic diversity

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2014 Jul 24;6(9):a008516. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a008516.


Europeans have been the focus of some of the largest studies of genetic diversity in any species to date. Recent genome-wide data have reinforced the hypothesis that present-day European genetic diversity is strongly correlated with geography. The remaining challenge now is to understand more precisely how patterns of diversity in Europe reflect ancient demographic events such as postglacial expansions or the spread of farming. It is likely that recent advances in paleogenetics will give us some of these answers. There has also been progress in identifying specific segments of European genomes that reflect adaptations to selective pressures from the physical environment, disease, and dietary shifts. A growing understanding of how modern European genetic diversity has been shaped by demographic and evolutionary forces is not only of basic historical and anthropological interest but also aids genetic studies of disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Europe
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Geography
  • Human Migration*
  • Humans
  • Selection, Genetic


  • DNA, Mitochondrial