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Patterns of genetic differentiation and the footprints of historical migrations in the Iberian Peninsula

By Clare Bycroft, Ceres Fernández-Rozadilla, Clara Ruiz-Ponte, Inés Quintela-García, Ángel Carracedo, Peter Donnelly, Simon Myers

Posted 12 Mar 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/250191 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-08272-w)

Genetic differences within or between human populations (population structure) has been studied using a variety of approaches over many years. Recently there has been an increasing focus on studying genetic differentiation at fine geographic scales, such as within countries. Identifying such structure allows the study of recent population history, and identifies the potential for confounding in association studies, particularly when testing rare, often recently arisen variants. The Iberian Peninsula is linguistically diverse, has a complex demographic history, and is unique among European regions in having a centuries-long period of Muslim rule. Previous genetic studies of Spain have examined either a small fraction of the genome or only a few Spanish regions. Thus, the overall pattern of fine-scale population structure within Spain remains uncharacterised. Here we analyse genome-wide genotyping array data for 1,413 Spanish individuals sampled from all regions of Spain. We identify extensive fine-scale structure, down to unprecedented scales, smaller than 10 Km in some places. We observe a major axis of genetic differentiation that runs from east to west of the peninsula. In contrast, we observe remarkable genetic similarity in the north-south direction, and evidence of historical north-south population movement. Finally, without making particular prior assumptions about source populations, we show that modern Spanish people have regionally varying fractions of ancestry from a group most similar to modern north Moroccans. The north African ancestry results from an admixture event, which we date to 860 - 1120 CE, corresponding to the early half of Muslim rule. Our results indicate that it is possible to discern clear genetic impacts of the Muslim conquest and population movements associated with the subsequent Reconquista.

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