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Autosomal STR Analyses in Native Amazonian Tribes Suggest a Population Structure Driven by Isolation by Distance


Eleven short tandem repeat loci (CSF1PO, D3S1358, D5S818, D7S820, D8S1179, D13S317, D16S539, D18S51, D21S11, TH01, and TPOX) were investigated in 232 individuals from 6 Amazonian native tribes (Tiriyó, Waiãpi, Zoé, Urubu-Kaapor, Awa-Guajá, and Parakanã). We added the new data to a database that included five previously typed native populations from the same area (Wai Wai, Gavião, Zoró, Suruí, and Xavante). The results presented here concern this new data set, which accounts for 526 individuals in total. We tested whether major geographic or linguistic barriers to gene flow exist among such human groups and tried to find a possible anthropological or ethnological explanation for such patterns. We measured the average heterozygosity (H) and the number of alleles (NA) and found that both are lower than values observed in populations of different ethnic backgrounds, such as European or African descendants. Despite such a result, we found high between-population variation; lower H and/or NA values were obtained from four isolated tribes that came into contact with external nonnative populations in recent times (1921–1989). By applying analysis of molecular variance, generalized hierarchical modeling, and the Structure Bayesian analysis, we were not able to detect any significant geographic or linguistic barrier to gene flow. Geographic autocorrelation analysis suggests that the genetic structure of native Amazonian tribes is better explained by isolation by distance because the level of genetic similarity decreases according to linear geographic distance, reaching null or negative values at a scale of 300 km.