mtDNA and the Islands of the North Atlantic: Estimating the Proportions of Norse and Gaelic Ancestry

Agnar Helgason, Eileen Hickey, Sara Goodacre, et. al.


A total of 1,664 new mtDNA control-region sequences were analyzed in order to estimate Gaelic and Scandinavian matrilineal ancestry in the populations of Iceland, Orkney, the Western Isles, and the Isle of Skye and to investigate other aspects of their genetic history. A relative excess of private lineages in the Icelanders is indicative of isolation, whereas the scarcity of private lineages in Scottish island populations may be explained by recent gene flow and population decline. Differences in the frequencies of lineage clusters are observed between the Scandinavian and the Gaelic source mtDNA pools, and, on a continent-wide basis, such differences between populations seem to be associated with geography. A multidimensional scaling analysis of genetic distances, based on mtDNA lineage-cluster frequencies, groups the North Atlantic islanders with the Gaelic and the Scandinavian populations, whereas populations from the central, southern, and Baltic regions of Europe are arranged in clusters in broad agreement with their geographic locations. This pattern is highly significant, according to a Mantel correlation between genetic and geographic distances (r=.716). Admixture analyses indicate that the ancestral contributions of mtDNA lineages from Scandinavia to the populations of Iceland, Orkney, the Western Isles, and the Isle of Skye are 37.5%, 35.5%, 11.5%, and 12.5%, respectively.

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/art...?artid=1274484