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Ancestry, population structure, and biogeography

Geo-localization of people using their DNA

Yielding accurate biogeographical predictions is essential to studies of population structure, biodiversity, epidemiology, and many other fields of science like history and archeology.

It is thereby nor surprising that the search for a method that utilizes biological information to predict species’ place of origin has occupied scientists for millennia. Over the past four decades, scientists have employed genetic data in an effort to achieve this goal but with limited success. While some biogeographical algorithms using next-generation sequencing data have achieved an accuracy of 700 km in Europe, when applied to humans, they were inaccurate elsewhere.

Our lab specialized in developing biogeographical tests that can predict geographical origins with high accuracy. Our GPS algorithm, developed for humans was shown to reach accuracy down to home island and village of origins. An advanced version of this algorithm is commercially available as GPS Origins.

 

A map over Sardinia with different sized and coloured circles.
The geographical location of the examined Sardinian villages. The mean predicted distances (km) from the village of origin are marked by bold (female) and plain (males) circles. Predicting Sardinians to villages from Elhaik et al (2014).

Predicting Sardinians to villages from Elhaik et al. (2014)

We are interested in reconstructing the migration routes and assist in forensics investigations where accurate bio-localization is a key. We are also interested in applying GPS to non-humans to infer their geographical origins and demographic history.

Papers

  1. Elhaik, E. et al. Geographic population structure analysis of worldwide human populations infers their biogeographical origins. Nat. Commun. 5, 1-12, doi:10.1038/ncomms4513 (2014).
  2. Guo, H. et al. Geographic variation in plant community structure of salt marshes: species, functional and phylogenetic perspectives. PLoS ONE 10, e0127781, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127781 (2015).
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