Uncovering the genetic history of the present-day Greenlandic population

Am J Hum Genet. 2015 Jan 8;96(1):54-69. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2014.11.012. Epub 2014 Dec 31.


Because of past limitations in samples and genotyping technologies, important questions about the history of the present-day Greenlandic population remain unanswered. In an effort to answer these questions and in general investigate the genetic history of the Greenlandic population, we analyzed ∼200,000 SNPs from more than 10% of the adult Greenlandic population (n = 4,674). We found that recent gene flow from Europe has had a substantial impact on the population: more than 80% of the Greenlanders have some European ancestry (on average ∼25% of their genome). However, we also found that the amount of recent European gene flow varies across Greenland and is far smaller in the more historically isolated areas in the north and east and in the small villages in the south. Furthermore, we found that there is substantial population structure in the Inuit genetic component of the Greenlanders and that individuals from the east, west, and north can be distinguished from each other. Moreover, the genetic differences in the Inuit ancestry are consistent with a single colonization wave of the island from north to west to south to east. Although it has been speculated that there has been historical admixture between the Norse Vikings who lived in Greenland for a limited period ∼600-1,000 years ago and the Inuit, we found no evidence supporting this hypothesis. Similarly, we found no evidence supporting a previously hypothesized admixture event between the Inuit in East Greenland and the Dorset people, who lived in Greenland before the Inuit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Databases, Factual
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Gene Flow
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genotype
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Greenland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phylogeography
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • White People / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial