What do you get when you plot the genetic fingerprints of more than
1000 Europeans on a grid? An image that looks surprisingly like a map
of Europe. The findings reveal that our DNA contains a sort of global
positioning system, which researchers can use to pinpoint where in the
world both we and our relatives came from….
"I couldn’t believe the picture was so clear," says Carlos
Bustamante, senior author and statistical geneticist at Cornell
University. "I, for one, fell off my chair." Italy and Spain clearly
had their own cluster of genetically similar individuals, for example,
and there were even distinctions between French-, German-, and Italian-
speaking populations within Switzerland.
The results make sense,
says Bustamante. Because people in a region are more likely to marry
and mate with each other–a factor that may be largely due to shared
language–that gene pool will evolve as a separate cluster that
corresponds to a place on the globe, he explains. "You don’t randomly
mate within Europe. … If you live in Strait of Gibraltar, you’re more
likely to marry someone in Spain versus someone in Moscow."