DNA highlights Native American die-off | Science News


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DNA highlights Native American die-off

Brief, dramatic population decline after European contact left genetic mark

6:52pm, December 5, 2011

Genetic evidence now backs up Spanish documents from the 16th century describing smallpox epidemics that decimated Native American populations.

Native American numbers briefly plummeted by about 50 percent around the time European explorers arrived, before rebounding within 200 to 300 years, say geneticist Brendan O’Fallon of ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City and anthropologist Lars Fehren-Schmitz of the University of Göttingen in Germany. Population declines occurred throughout North and South America around 500 years ago, the researchers report in a paper published online December 5 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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