Icelanders have undergone rapid genetic changes

Modern Icelanders have a much higher percentage of Scandinavian genes than their distant ancestors. Scientists suggest this is the result of very rapid genetic changes over the past thousand years.

Historical accounts suggest that Iceland was settled between 870 and 930 by Vikingow and their slaveow. Ancestors of today’s IcelandersoIn they possessed a mixture of genesow from present-day Norway and the British Isles. For the next thousand years, Iceland’s population remained relatively small and isolated, oscillating between 10,000 and 50,000. residentsow.

Genealogical records and genetic studies covering a sizable proportion of Icelandersow, whichoof which there are currently about 330,000, have made them an example of a model population for geneticistoin whichoers hope to connect the dots between variants of the genoin, and specific traits.

syndromeoThe researchersow of the University of Iceland and the biopharmaceutical company deCODE Genetics led by geneticist S. Sunna Ebenesersdottir, analyzed the entire genomes of 27 ancient inhabitants of theoin Iceland, whichor whose skeletons have been found at sites buried in theoof scattered throughout the island. Archaeological and radiocarbon dating indicated that the remains were about 1,000 years old. This means that they belonged to the first generations of settlersow.

Sequencing revealed that settlers from 1,000 years ago had approximately rowny distribution of the genomeoin ancestraloin Nordic, originating in present-day Norway and Sweden, as well as Gaelic, originating in present-day Ireland and Scotland. But when scientists pore overoThey contributed ancient genomes with thousands of wspomodern inhabitantsoin Iceland and other countriesoIn the European they found that wspoModern Icelanders have, on average, about 70 percent of the. of their genesow derived from ancestraloin the Nordic.

This suggests that over the course of about 1,100 years, this population underwent a surprisingly rapid genetic change. The results of a study on the subject were published in the journal „Science”.

When the researchers used computer simulation to model the spread of geneoIn this population, they discovered a rather mundane explanation for the rapid genetic change in Icelandersow. Responsible for this are random fluctuations in the frequencies of the genes in questionow known as genetic drift. This process is not due to mutation, migration or natural selection. Such drift is an evolutionary factor devoid of adaptation and is often seen in isolated animal populations, but rarely so detailedotually observed in humans.

In the spread of the genoin the Nordic could pomoc recent wave of migration especially the Danishow, which likely shifted the gene pool. Another possibility, the study authors note, is that ancient Icelanders with a preponderance of genesoin the Norse had a slight advantage in reproductive success over those with Gaelic ancestry. After all, most of the latter were slaves.

The paper’s authors caution, however, that their research may be subject to some error. During the work, 27 ancient skeletons were analyzedow and it was this probka may be unrepresentative, as there may have been little genetic material derived from slavesow. Their graves were not as well marked and the analyzed material mohead was from a higher caste.

Sourceobackground: Science, fot. Ivar Brynjolfsson/The National Museum of Iceland