Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Iceland's Drastic Gene Pool Change

n just over 1,000 years, Icelanders have gone through numerous changes in their gene pool, to the extent that Iceland’s first settlers, who came to the island from Norway and the British and Irish isles between the years 870 and 930, are much more similar to the inhabitants of their original home countries than to Iceland’s present-day inhabitants.

This is one of the main conclusions of a study carried out by an international team of scientists which included members of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). For the first time, the researchers, whose results are published in the journal Science, analysed the ancient genomes of 25 individuals who lived in Iceland during the colonisation of the island.

With a population of 330,000, Iceland is a country with its own peculiarities. Genes are no exception: isolation and inbreeding throughout its history make this northern Atlantic island a paradise for genetic studies.
The analysis of ancient skeletal remains- more specifically the teeth belonging to the first generations to populate the island- has shed more light on the genetic evolution which led to a combination of genes coming from Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia. According to the conclusions of this study, the Norwegian genetic fingerprint of present day Icelanders stands at 70%, while, in the case of the island’s original founders, it was 57%.
As CSIC researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox, who works at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (a joint institute between CSIC and Pompeu Fabra University) explains, “This work takes an in-depth look at the process which makes small, isolated populations go through random changes in their genetic variability over time. Present-day Icelanders have been affected by 1,100 years of profound genetic drift. This means they are more similar to each other, yet different to modern populations of continental Europe.”
Read the rest of the article here.

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