Mitochondrial DNA and Peopling of South America

The initial peopling of South America is largely unresolved, in part because of the unique distribution of genetic diversity in native South Americans. On average, genetic diversity estimated within Andean populations is higher than that estimated within Amazonian populations. Yet there is less genetic differentiation estimated among Andean populations than estimated among Amazonian populations. One hypothesis is that this pattern is a product of independent migrations of genetically differentiated people into South America. A competing hypothesis is that there was a single migration followed by regional isolation. In this study we address these hypotheses using mtDNA hypervariable region 1 sequences representing 21 South American groups and include new data sets for four native Peruvian communities from Tupe, Yungay, and Puno. An analysis of variance that compared the combined data from western South America to the combined data from eastern South America determined that these two regional data sets are not significantly different. As a result, a migration from a single source population into South America serves as the simplest explanation of the data.