The degree of population replacement in the British Isles associated with cultural changes has been extensively debated [1-3]. Recent work has demonstrated that comparisons of genetic variation in the British Isles and on the European Continent can illuminate specific demographic processes in the history of the British Isles. For example, Wilson et al.  used the similarity of Basque and Celtic Y chromosomes to argue for genetic continuity from the Upper Palaeolithic to the present in the paternal history of these populations (see also ). Differences in the Y chromosome composition of these groups also suggested genetic signatures of Norwegian influence in the Orkney Islands north of the Scottish mainland, an important center of Viking activities between 800 and 1300 A.D. . More recently, Weale et al.  argued for substantial Anglo-Saxon male migration into central England based on the analysis of eight British sample sets collected on an east-west transect across England and Wales. To provide a more complete assessment of the paternal genetic history of the British Isles, we have compared the Y chromosome composition of multiple geographically distant British sample sets with collections from Norway (two sites), Denmark, and Germany and with collections from central Ireland, representing, respectively, the putative invading and the indigenous populations. By analyzing 1772 Y chromosomes from 25 predominantly small urban locations, we found that different parts of the British Isles have sharply different paternal histories; the degree of population replacement and genetic continuity shows systematic variation across the sampled areas.
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