Phlylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA and HLA type analysis suggest there is a relationship between Japanese and Paleo-Indians in South America (DRB1*0802 was found to be present in almost all Amerindians, Siberian Eskimos and Japanese Ainu but specifically two Meso and South Amerindian DRB1 alleles – DRB1*0411 and DRB1*0417- are also shared with Siberians and Asian Pacific coast populations (Ainu, Japanese and Taiwan) as well as Athabaskans and Eskimos (other First American inhabitants) with the exception of the Aleuts).
A 2000 American Scientist article suggested that the “highest frequencies of these four haplogroups occur in the Altai Mountain/Tuva/Lake Baikal region, implying that this general region gave rise to the founders of Native American populations. Otherwise, haplogroup B is absent in the vast majority of native Siberian populations, haplogroup A occurs at very low frequencies outside of Chukotka, and haplogroups C and D are the predominant mtDNA lineages in northern Asia.
However, the presence of a certain control region mutation in haplogroups C and D may point to alternative source areas for ancestral Native Americans. This mutation appears in the majority of both haplogroup C and D mtDNAs in Native American populations, suggesting it is part of the original sequence motifs for both of them. Among all Asian and Siberian mtDNAs, however, this mutation only appears in haplogroup C mtDNAs from Mongolia and the Amur River region and in haplogroup D mtDNAs in the Japanese, Korean and Ainu. This distribution suggests that East Asia as well as southeast Siberia or Mongolia might be source areas or migration pathways for these haplogroups.”
Some recent scholarship leaned towards South Siberia (between Altai mountains and the Amur valley) as the source of ancestral populations of the Americas. But a 2010 Russian study clarified that while mtDNA haplogroups C and D diversified in southern Siberia, the oldest lineages are found in eastern Asia. A 1996 American study on mtDNA concluded that the four New World founding haplogroups, were detected and likely originated in the two Mongolian populations of Khalkha and Daringaga:
“Based on the current distribution of mtDNA haplogroups, we propose that populations in east Central Asia represent the closest genetic link between the Old World and the New World. All four New World haplogroups [A, B, C, D] have been detected in Mongolian, central Chinese and Tibetan populations that delineate the only region in Asia where all four haplogroups exist and no population lacking any one of the haplogroups occurs. Thus, the narrow strip of east Central Asia that extends from Mongolia to the Pacific coast may have served as the starting point for the human migration that led to colonization of the New World. Furthermore, presence of the four
New World haplogroups throughout the Americas, but a restricted distribution in Asia, suggests a single sampling of these haplotypes. The emerging mtDNA picture of genetic diversity in the Americas appears to support a single migration, perhaps sustained over a period of time, of modern humans that gave rise to all contemporary New World populations. This scenario still allows for the possibility of other ancient migrations whose populations did not survive or at least left no maternal, i e . , mtDNA, record of their occupation.”
The latest general consensus according to a 2010 study “The Initial Peopling of the Americas...” however, is that modern Native American populations ultimately trace their gene pool to (at least 15 maternal lineages of) Asian groups who colonized northeast Siberia, including parts of Beringia, prior to the last glacial period. Native American populations arose from different contributing pools of ancestral populations – pre-LGM haplotypes of Asian ancestry; ancestral population(s) preserved in refugial areas during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) – and other groups from Beringia or eastern Siberia expanded into North America in the millennia after the initial Paleo-Indian migrations.
Novel haplotypes and alleles arose in situ due to new mutation, eg. a temporally important differentiation stage in Beringia explains the predominance in Native Americans of private alleles and haplogroups such as the autosomal 9-repeat at microsatellite locus D9S1120, the Y chromosome haplogroup Q1a3a-M3, and the pan-American mtDNA haplogroups A2, B2, C1b, C1c, C1d, D1, and D4h3a.
Other groups from Beringia or eastern Siberia expanded into North America in the millennia after the initial Paleo-Indian migrations. So admixture with population groups newly arrived from regions located west of Beringia would have resulted in the entry of additional Asian lineages into North America. This explains the presence of certain mtDNA haplogroups such as A2a, A2b, D2a, D3, and X2a only in populations of northern North America. Other recent data show that some native groups from northern North America harbor stronger genetic similarities with some eastern Siberian groups than with Native American groups located more in the South.
However, the 2010 study concluded that the Asian-founding lineages C1d were later arrivals than the other Siberian founding lineages. The study put entry times for other Siberian haplogroups at 15–18 thousand years ago (kya), for the post-LGM arrival from Beringia with early Paleo-Indians as well as for haplogroup X2a, which is thought to have arrived through an ice-free corridor.
According to this study C1d was characterized by an expansion time of only 7.6–9.7 kya, and the 2010 Russian Derenko study supported this and clarified that “the C1 branch is represented by C1a subclade which is a sister clade of the Native American subclades C1b, C1c, and C1d, which are dated to 18.6±2.3 kya and most likely arose early – either in Beringia or at a very initial stage of the Paleoindian southward migration. The Asian C1a-branch derived likely from the same ancestral population as the three Native American subclades shows a relatively lower coalescence time varying from 2 to 8.5 kya (1.97±1.97 kya for synonymous clock rate and 8.57 (2.6; 14.75) kya for complete mtDNA clock rate), implying that its expansion from Beringia occurred long after the end of the LGM.
Following from the foregoing, the bulk of the evidence suggests that the New World was colonized by certain common lineages (C and D haplogroups) that were ancestral to both the people of Japan and the Americas, rather than directly out of Japan itself.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, “ancient skeletal remains show a range of physical attributes suggesting separate migrations of different populations of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) from Asia. The handful of human skeletons dated over 8,000 years ago show some regional variation, but as a group their skulls differ markedly from the broad faces, prominent cheekbones, and round cranial vaults that characterize modern–day American Indians. These ancient specimens have long and narrow cranial vaults with short and relatively gracile faces. Two examples are the 9,400-year-old Spirit Cave Man from Nevada and the most recently discovered 8.900-year-old Kennewick Man found in Washington State in 1996. Physical anthropologists see a greater similarity in these crania to certain Old World populations such as Polynesians, Europeans, and the Ainu of Japan. Only one early specimen, Wizards Beach Man, a Nevada skeleton dated to 9,200 years ago, falls within the range of variability of contemporary American Indians, an exception that requires further scientific validation. Crania with American Indian morphology appears by at least 7,000 years ago.
The similarity of the ancient crania to Polynesians suggested that one early source of migrants to the Americas was Asian circumpacific populations.”
Notwithstanding the recent “out-of-Siberia” views and the traditional view of how the New World was colonized was via a land crossing, some scientists believe that prehistoric seafaring people from Japan (sometime between 20,000 and 13,000 years ago) might have been the first to reach the Americas by sea-hopping their way along the coastal belt bordered by kelp forests from Japan Alaska to Southern California. Read the Japan Times article, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007 below.
New World’s first dwellers Japanese?
LONDON (Kyodo) The first inhabitants of North and South America could have been fishermen from Japan who traveled there in small boats, according to research in the latest edition of New Scientist magazine.
The new work casts doubt on the traditional theory that the “first Americans” were hunters from Asia who traveled to the continent on foot via the Bering ice bridge in Alaska some 13,500 years ago.
Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist from the University of Oregon, believes the first people to arrive were probably fishermen who followed a near continuous belt of kelp forests in the coastal waters of the Pacific Rim, from Japan to Alaska and southern California.
His research, which will be published soon in another academic journal, is based on discoveries of ice-age sea voyages in Japan, a study of human DNA and investigations of prehistoric marine ecosystems.
“I think they were just moving along the coast and exploring. It was like a kelp highway,” Erlandson told the weekly science journal.
Coastal researchers who spoke to the magazine believe the seafarers could have arrived in the New World some time after 16,000 years ago when the massive glaciers started to retreat from the outer Northwest American coast.
The conventional theory is that hunters came to the North American continent, much of which was covered in ice, from Siberia, and made their way south through a relatively narrow passage in the ice.
However, since the 1950s there has been growing evidence that America might have been discovered by ancient ice-age seafarers.
This alternative view has been buoyed by indications that the coastline of Northwest America was not as inhospitable as previously thought during the late ice age and could have sustained seafaring communities.
And in the 1990s, evidence emerged of a community living on shellfish on an island off the Chilean coast around 14,850 years ago. There was also a study that suggested that the ice corridor, through which the earliest Americans are thought to have traveled, was blocked by ice until some 13,000 years ago, making it impassable.
Erlandson was intrigued by this growing evidence and decided to investigate further.
First, he found evidence indicating that inhabitants of Honshu set out across the North Pacific more than 20,000 years ago to Kozushima, an island in the Izu chain 50 km south of the present Tokyo, to collect a type of volcanic glass to make tools.
Erlandson believes they could have done this in boats made from animal skins.
And he believes it is perfectly possible for them to have journeyed northward from there to the Kuril Islands, then the Kamchatka Peninsula, and on to the island-studded shore of the Bering land bridge and beyond to the New World.
He told New Scientist it would have been a very tough trip in treacherous waters but “what was once imponderable now seems entirely conceivable and increasingly likely.”
Another researcher interviewed by the magazine said the earliest direct evidence of seafaring in the New World comes from California’s Channel Islands.
Experts have found the remains of one seafarer there that puts him at between 13,000 and 13,200 years old. Obviously, the experts are not sure from where the mariner originated, but it raises the possibility he could have come from Japan.
Other research shows that what is thought to be the oldest form of DNA ever recovered from the New World — around 10,300 years old — is common in type to that found in Japan and Tibet. And similar DNA has been found in American Indians all the way down the west coast of North and South America.
Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Mongolian populations and implications for the origin of New World founders. Genetics. 1996 Apr;142(4):1321-34. by Kolman CJ et al. Abstract follows below:
High levels of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diversity were determined for Mongolian populations, represented by the Mongol-speaking Khalkha and Dariganga. Although 103 samples were collected across Mongolia, low levels of genetic substructuring were detected, reflecting the nomadic lifestyle and relatively recent ethnic differentiation of Mongolian populations. mtDNA control region I sequence and seven additional mtDNA polymorphisms were assayed to allow extensive comparison with previous human population studies. Based on a comparative analysis, we propose that indigenous populations in east Central Asia represent the closest genetic link between Old and New World populations. Utilizing restriction/deletion polymorphisms, Mongolian populations were found to carry all four New World founding haplogroups as defined by WALLACE and coworkers. The ubiquitous presence of the four New World haplogroups in the Americas but narrow distribution across Asia weakens support for GREENBERG and coworkers’ theory of New World colonization via three independent migrations. The statistical and geographic scarcity of New World haplogroups in Asia makes it improbable that the same four haplotypes would be drawn from one geographic region three independent times. Instead, it is likely that founder effects manifest throughout Asia and the Americas are responsible for differences in mtDNA haplotype frequencies observed in these regions.
DNA and the Peopling of Siberia by Michael Hammer and Tatiana Karafet
Mitochondrial DNA and the Peopling of the New World American Scientist, May-June 2000 by Theodore G. Schurr
The Initial Peopling of the Americas: A growing number of mitochondrial genomes from Beringia June 29, 2010, doi:10.1101/gr.109231.110 Genome Res. 2010. 20:1174-1179
Who were the First Americans? Center for the Study of the First Americans
Origin and Post-Glacial Dispersal of Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups C and D in Northern Asia Derenko M, Malyarchuk B, Grzybowski T, Denisova G, Rogalla U, et al. 2010 Origin and Post-Glacial Dispersal of Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups C and D in Northern Asia. PLoS ONE 5(12): e15214. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015214