by Brooks Hays
Cambridge, England (UPI) Feb 1, 2017
Scientists have discovered high "genetic continuity" between modern East Asia populations and their Stone Age ancestors.
The findings serve as a stark contrast to the analysis of genomes in Western Europe, where a constant influx of new genes brought by mass migrations has convoluted the region's genetic history.
The latest revelation was made possible by the successful extraction of DNA from the 8,000 year-old remains discovered in a cave in the Russian Far East. The five bodies belonged to Stone Age hunter-gatherers.
Researchers found surprising similarities between the hunter gatherer genes and the genomes of several contemporary ethnic groups in East Asia.
The new evidence -- detailed in the journal Science Advances -- suggests at least some populations in East Asia feature relatively uninterrupted genetic lineages stretching back to the Neolithic period.
The strongest genetic similarities were found among the Ulchi people of the Amur Basin, a region near the convergence of the borders of Russia, China and North Korea.
"Genetically speaking, the populations across northern East Asia have changed very little for around eight millennia," Andrea Manica, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, said in a news release. "Once we accounted for some local intermingling, the Ulchi and the ancient hunter-gatherers appeared to be almost the same population from a genetic point of view, even though there are thousands of years between them."
Like other native peoples of East Asia, Ulchi and their culture are disappearing.
"These are ethnic groups with traditional societies and deep roots across eastern Russia and China, whose culture, language and populations are rapidly dwindling," added Cambridge researcher Veronika. "Our work suggests that these groups form a strong genetic lineage descending directly from the early Neolithic hunter-gatherers who inhabited the same region thousands of years previously."
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