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Sat May 23, 2020, 12:17 AM

Earliest evidence of Italians' extraordinary genetic diversity dates back to 19,000 years ago

MAY 22, 2020
by University of Bologna

Credit: CC0 Public Domain
In Europe, Italians have the highest genetic diversity. The gradient of their genetic variability, scattered all over the peninsula, encloses on a small scale the whole genetic variance between southern and continental Europeans. This amazing diversity started to accumulate soon after the Late Glacial Maximum, which ended approximately 19,000 years ago.

This is what researchers of the University of Bologna have reported in a paper published in BMC Biology . It is the first time that researchers have traced Italians' genetic history. Results also show that there are genetic peculiarities characterizing people living in the north and south of Italy that evolved in response to different environments. These peculiarities contribute to reducing the risk of kidney inflammation and skin cancers, and the risk of diabetes and obesity, favoring a longer lifespan.

"Gaining an understanding of the evolutionary history of the ancestors of Italians allows us to better grasp the demographic processes and those of environmental interactions that shaped the complex mosaic of ancestry components of today's European populations," explains Marco Sazzini, one of the principal investigators of this study and professor of molecular anthropology at the University of Bologna. "This investigation provides valuable information in order to fully appreciate the biological characteristics of the current Italian population. Moreover, it let us understand the deep causes that can impact on this population's health or on its predisposition to a number of diseases."

An unexpected outcome

To carry out this study, researchers sequenced the entire genome of 40 participants who were selected as representatives of the biological variability of the Italian population with a good approximation. The analysis brought to the fore more than 17 million genetic variants. Scientists then made a twofold comparison. First, they compared these data against the genetic variants observed in other 35 populations from Europe and from the Mediterranean. Second, they compared the same data against the genetic variants found in studies on almost 600 human remains dating from the Upper Palaeolithic (approx. 40,000 years ago) to the Bronze Age (approx. 4,000 years ago).


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Reply Earliest evidence of Italians' extraordinary genetic diversity dates back to 19,000 years ago (Original post)
Judi Lynn May 23 OP
Javaman May 26 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue May 26, 2020, 10:52 AM

1. I just got my results from my 23 and me test...

while I'm half Italian (Sicilian), and half German (northern German), the results were interesting. I'm actually less German and less Italian.

1/3 German: a mixture of Nordic nations and a smidge of English besides German, but my Italian side is 1/3 Italian and the last 1/3 is northern Africa and Middle Eastern.

if you saw me though, as my mom would say, "you look like tall Swede".

go figure.

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