Geneticists have found that the population of the Caucasus has not changed for 8 thousand years
MOSCOW, 30 Jul — RIA Novosti. The inhabitants of modern South Caucasus mastered territory of these mountains more than eight thousand years ago and survived until today without major genetic rearrangements, despite the turbulent history of the region, according to a paper published in the journal Current Biology.
“We analyzed a large number of modern and ancient mitochondrial genomes of Caucasians, and revealed a continuous genetic line that connects the inhabitants of the Caucasus for at least the last eight thousand years. In other words, the gene pool of the female population of the Caucasus has not changed during this time. This shows that a large number of cultural and political changes in the region did not affect its population, at least for women,” says Ashot Margaryan from the natural history Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.
Such insights allows you to make the so-called mitochondrial DNA — a small segment of the genome, contained in the “power plants” of the cell, the mitochondria. This DNA is passed along with mitochondria from a mother to her children, allowing you to set the relationship between the human populations and the use of mtDNA to study the history of their migrations, as well as build a single “family tree” of humanity.
Margaryan and his colleagues under the guidance of renowned Danish paleogenetic Willerslev Eske (Eske Willerslev) used these fragments of DNA to restore the genetic history of one of the most historically interesting and challenging corners of the Earth — the southern Caucasus.
This region tell scientists quite a long time served as one of the major migration routes of peoples and a “window to Europe” for the ancestors of the people of Russia and other European countries.
Enough scientists have long thought that these migrations could uniquely imprinted on the genetic appearance of the peoples of the Caucasus, whose cultural traditions in some cases fluctuated over time. Willerslev, Margaryan and colleagues found that this view was erroneous, studying five dozen skeletons of the ancient inhabitants of the Caucasus, recently found in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
These remains, as the researchers note, has been well preserved in order to extract from them the fragments of mitochondrial DNA and fully restore her. Comparing them with each other and with the mtDNA of two hundred modern residents of Karabakh and Armenia, the scientists were able to understand how changes to the population of the Caucasus from the moment of its settling.
As it turned out, at least six of the ancient inhabitants of Karabakh had each other brothers, sisters or other close relatives in the maternal line, and in General, their mitochondrial genomes are a little different from the look of this part of the DNA of modern inhabitants of Karabakh.
Small differences in the structures of mtDNA of the ancient Armenians, as the researchers note, show that their ancestors inhabited the Caucasus, around 18 thousand years ago, the last interglacial period when the North polar cap has retreated back in the last time. Since then, as the calculations of geneticists, the population of the inhabitants of the Caucasus has significantly expanded, but its genetic composition is not changed at least eight thousand years.
More accurate conclusions scientists can obtain after they will recover and decode the complete genomes of the ancient inhabitants of Karabakh. Comparison of sets of mutations in them, as promised Willerslev will help to get a full picture of the genetic evolution of the Caucasus and will help scientists to find an explanation for its amazing stability.