Features / Who are you?

What mtDNA revealed about three Canadians

Subject 1: Female

Why did you want to take part?

“I was adopted (OK, you’ve heard that before). I don’t really know anything in terms of who created me or what my roots are —which clearly defines who I am today. Yes, I’m super curious! Culturally, this is also a factor. I’m half-Chinese and half-Caucasian (of some sort) and was adopted by Japanese people.

What the Paleo-DNA Laboratory discovered

Subject one belongs to haplogroup U3. Haplogroup U hypothetically first appeared about 55,000 to 60,000 years ago. Bryan Sykes, author of The Seven Daughters of Eve named the originator of this mitochondrial (mt) DNA haplogroup Ursula. Haplogroup U descended from Haplogroup R, which lived just after a second migration wave out of Africa, says the report.

Haplogroup U has an extremely broad geographic distribution that ranges from Europe and North Africa to India and Central Asia due to numerous subsequent migrations.

Although some members of haplogroup U migrated north into Scandinavia and others moved south into North Africa, most haplogroup U members stem from a group that moved northward out of the Near East, crossing the rugged Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia and moving on to the steppes of the Black Sea, then west to the present-day Baltic States and western Eurasia.

Subject 1’s reaction

“Reading the results, I was very surprised to see that the majority of my DNA was not comprised as much from Asia as I initially thought. I’ve always thought I was a mix of just about everything but was surprised that it was mostly from eastern Europe and western Asia.”

Subject 2: Female

Why did you want to take part?

“I was adopted when I was young and I know almost nothing about my biological ancestors. Knowing where I came from would give me a better understanding of who I am.”

What the Paleo-DNA Laboratory discovered

Subject two belongs to haplogroup J and subject three belongs to J2. This means they share a maternal ancestor somewhere in the very distant past. Haplogroup J theoretically first appeared in the Near East about 50,000 years ago.

Sykes named the originator of this mitochondrial (mt) DNA haplogroup Jasmine. Haplogroup J derives from the haplogroup JT, which also gave rise to Haplogroup T. Haplogroup J is associated with the Neolithic expansion, the first use of agriculture, into Europe approximately 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Groups of hunter-gatherers and subsistence fishermen had been occupying much of Eurasia for tens of thousands of years when a group of modern humans living in the Fertile Crescent (present-day eastern Turkey and northern Syria) began domesticating the plants, nuts and seeds they had been foraging about 10,000

Subject 2’s reaction

“Since I’m adopted, I really had no expectations about what would be discovered, but I certainly did not expect to have any common ancestry with another person taking part in this story! I found it incredible how far back they were able to look.

It was surprising to me that I have Arabian ancestry. I’d definitely not have guessed that.”

Subject 3: Male

“I was born in a part of the world where there were people coming in from various empires over various time periods. It’s a jambalaya of Arabs, Indians, Iranians, Mongolians and a plethora of other people. I always wanted to figure out what mix I came from.”

What the Paleo-DNA Laboratory discovered

Subject two belongs to haplogroup J and subject three belongs to J2. This means they share a maternal ancestor somewhere in the very distant past. Haplogroup J theoretically first appeared in the Near East about 50,000 years ago.

Sykes named the originator of this mitochondrial (mt) DNA haplogroup Jasmine. Haplogroup J derives from the haplogroup JT, which also gave rise to Haplogroup T. Haplogroup J is associated with the Neolithic expansion, the first use of agriculture, into Europe approximately 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Groups of hunter-gatherers and subsistence fishermen had been occupying much of Eurasia for tens of thousands of years when a group of modern humans living in the Fertile Crescent (present-day eastern Turkey and northern Syria) began domesticating the plants, nuts and seeds they had been foraging about 10,000 years ago, the report adds.

Haplogroup J’s most recent common ancestor likely made their homeland around the Levant, a coastal region in what is now Lebanon. The highest frequency of the haplogroup is found in Arabia where around 25 per cent of the Bedouin and Yemeni belong to this haplogroup.

The J1 subclade accounts for almost 70 per cent of the total J population. The J1 subclade occurs throughout the European continent including Britain. The J2 subclade is 10,000 years older than subclade J1.

The J2 subclade is more localized along the Mediterranean and especially the Balkan Peninsula. J2 population are actually quite diverse and range from the Mansi and other Ob River populations in Western Siberia (10 per cent of the J2 population) to populations of Northern Iran (five per cent of the J2 population), adds the report.

Subject 3’s reaction

It’s a bit of a surprise that those with my genetic makeup are found primarily in the Middle East, specifically in Arabia where around 25 per cent of the Bedouin and Yemeni population belong to my genetic group. Although Pakistan, where I was born, isn’t that far off geographically speaking, it means somewhere down the line my ancestors migrated to South Asia. I wouldn’t blame them. We got the best mangoes.

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