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article imageMysterious change in European population at end of last Ice Age

By Mark Shiffer     Feb 5, 2016 in Science
Europe's population changed rapidly thousands of years ago. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany revealed this after studying DNA samples from different regions of the continent.
Earth's most recent Ice Age ended around 14,500 years ago. It was followed by an era of climate instability. Experts aren't sure why, but a population of hunter-gatherers were replaced by another group at this time period.
The bones and teeth of 35 humans were used to study their DNA. The time period of the bones were between 30,000 and 7,000 years ago. These were people that lived in what is now Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, the Czech Republic, and Romania.
Three of the 35 people had DNA that belonged to a group with a single line of descent, known as Haplogroup M. Haplogroup M have no traces in modern Europeans. However it is common among Asian, Australasian, and aboriginal North American populations. The discovery of Haplogroup M suggests all non-Africans scattered quickly from a single group at a specific time, around 50,000 years ago. This is an important discovery. Before these findings, scientists believed the dispersal from Africa was gradual over a long period of time.
Still, the big surprise was finding the more recent population turnover. Researchers are calling it an "unknown chapter of human history." More study will be necessary, but the initial conclusion is that this group of hunter-gatherers went south or east from Europe during the climatic upheavals following the last Ice Age. They were then replaced by another as yet unknown group of humans.
More about Ice age, Europe, Climate
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