Thursday, June 25, 2009

Genetic clustering: 40 years of progress

Represent each individual human by their DNA sequence. When aggregated, they cluster into readily identifiable groups. This has been known for 40 years now, although the technology and methods of analysis continue to improve. Below are results from 1966, 1978 and 2008.

If this seems counterintuitive to you, it might be because the space of genetic variation is of very high dimension. See here for more discussion and an illustration.

(Click images for larger version.)

Population Structure and Human Evolution
L. L. Cavalli-Sforza

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 164, No.995, A Symposium from Mendel's Factors to the Genetic Code (Mar. 22, 1966), pp. 362-379

Measurement of Differentiation: Reply to Lewontin, Powell, and Taylor
Jeffry B. Mitton

The American Naturalist, Vol. 112, No. 988 (Nov. - Dec., 1978), pp. 1142-1144

Current state of the art, as discussed here. Figure: The three clusters shown below are European (top, green + red), Nigerian (light blue) and E. Asian (purple + blue).

According to the mathematical analysis given in this paper, populations with FST as low as .0001 can be resolved with current technology. (Typical FST between northern and southern Europe is about .006, between Europe and E. Asia about .1 and between Europe and Nigeria about .14 .)


Paul said...

Where would chimps and bonobos be on these plots? How about dogs and earthworms?

I'm assuming the distances are euclidian so plotting the animals might give us an intuitive feel for the meaning of the distances between the various groups.

Sam said...


Excuse me, but don't the sociologists say that race does not exist? ;-)

francois said...

It's just so hilarious to think of all those people who argued for lack of scientific (they meant objective) definition for race.

I guess they were already thick enough to ignore reality, those graph won't really make a difference to them.
But they are so bloody hilarious.

Glad someone took the time to do them, if there ever was a need for the obvious.

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