Coincidence that this appeared in today's issue of "Science," one of the
two best-known and most prestigious general science journals in the
anglophone world (Rosenberg, et. al. Science:298, 20/12/2002:2381). The
article is called "Genetic Structure of Human Populations" by a
multinational team from the US, Russia and France. I have the full
article (as well as the editorial introduction) but here's the abstract:

"We studied human population structure using genotypes at 377 autosomal
microstallite loci in 1056 individuals from 52 populations.
Within-population differences among individuals account for 93 to 95% of
genetic variation; differences among major groups constitute only 3 to
5%. Nevertheless, without using prior information about the origins of
individuals, we identified six main genetic clusters, five of which
correspond to major geographic regions, and subsclusters that often
correspond to individual populations. General agreement of genetic and
predefined populations suggests that self-reported ancestry can
facilitate assessments of epidemiological risks but does not obviate the
need to use genetic information in genetic associations studies."

I'm the first to admit I'm not a geneticist, and much of this article is
over my head. It *seems* to be saying that because there is far more
genetic variation within a given population than there is between
populations, that the use of genetics for the study of human migratory
patterns is only of very weak usefulness. That is, within a given area,
you could often separate populations, but if you tried to compare
populations from one area to populations in another area, there were
rarely any correlations. I could see no correlation between East Asian
and American populations, for instance. But in any case, the difference
between a Colombian sample and a Mayan sample within the greater
American population was greater than differences between the whole
American population and the East Asian populations (which likewise
showed great various between individual groups within the population as
a whole). Any thoughts?

Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland

“Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give lustre, and many
more people see than weigh.” – Lord Chesterfield

Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the
author solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the
author’s employer, nor those of any organization with which the author
may be associated.

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