The genetic history of Greenlandic-European contact

Curr Biol. 2021 May 24;31(10):2214-2219.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.02.041. Epub 2021 Mar 11.


The Inuit ancestors of the Greenlandic people arrived in Greenland close to 1,000 years ago.1 Since then, Europeans from many different countries have been present in Greenland. Consequently, the present-day Greenlandic population has ∼25% of its genetic ancestry from Europe.2 In this study, we investigated to what extent different European countries have contributed to this genetic ancestry. We combined dense SNP chip data from 3,972 Greenlanders and 8,275 Europeans from 14 countries and inferred the ancestry contribution from each of these 14 countries using haplotype-based methods. Due to the rapid increase in population size in Greenland over the past ∼100 years, we hypothesized that earlier European interactions, such as pre-colonial Dutch whalers and early German and Danish-Norwegian missionaries, as well as the later Danish colonists and post-colonial immigrants, all contributed European genetic ancestry. However, we found that the European ancestry is almost entirely Danish and that a substantial fraction is from admixture that took place within the last few generations.

Keywords: Greenland; Greenlandic-European contact; admixture; ancestry; genetic history; human; population genetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Denmark
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Greenland
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Inuit / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • White People* / genetics