The Greek Stochastics Beta’ conference is ongoing. Apart from the trips to the beaches at the end of the day, one of the highlights so far was Garrett Hellenthal‘s talk on “A new statistical method to identify and date population admixture events using dense genetic variation data“.
The authors have studied human DNA from various populations around the world to detect admixture (basically, when one population receives genetic material from another population, as might happen for example after an invasion). They look at the 53 populations from the Human Genome Diversity Project and detect between which populations there has been admixture.
What is impressive is that by looking at recombination, they are able to date the admixture events. For example, looking at South American populations, they reconstruct admixture from Europeans dating back to the conquistadores. They also find a strong signal in several places around Central Asia for admixture from Mongolia shortly after the time of Gengis Khan.
The method can go back about 150 generations (or around 2000 B.C.). This will have fascinating implications in better understanding recent human history.