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DNA Reveals Common Ancestor for Europeans that Lived 1,000 Years Ago

Update Date: May 08, 2013 11:15 AM EDT

Scientists analyzed and compared DNA samples and discovered that Europeans might have a lot more in common than previously believed. Based from the DNA samples from people throughout the continent, scientists unveiled that most of the people shared common ancestors just over 1,000 years ago. This discovery reconfirmed previous mathematical models that suggested a link between Europeans. Despite those previous models, this finding still plays a huge part in understanding how people relate to one another in a region that has been so accustomed to existing as distinctive ethnic groups.

"What's remarkable about this is how closely everyone is related to each other," the co-author of the study, Graham Coop from the University of California, Davis said. Coop worked with Peter Ralph from the University of Southern California. They looked at over 2,250 samples, compared them to one another, and were able to find the common ancestor link.

The researchers found that the closer two DNA samples were in terms of geography, the more they shared in common. Individuals that lived around 2,000 miles from one another had identical DNA parts that could be traced backed to the Middle Ages. These findings suggest that even after huge population movements stopped before the Middle Ages, people still continued to move throughout the continent at a respectively large rate.

"Although, as the authors note, the approach is inherently 'noisy' [error-prone], it still does give results from European populations that are in reasonable agreement with historical expectation," Mark Stoneking, professor of evolutionary anthropology from the University of Leipzig in Germany, said. Stoneking was not a part of the study. "It would be interesting to see this applied in situations where we don't have such good historical information."

The findings were published in PLoS Biology.

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