South America Map

Candela Introductory Paper

5 October 2014

Our new introductory paper of the CANDELA project has recently been published in PLoS Genetics: Admixture in Latin America: Geographic Structure, Phenotypic Diversity and Self-Perception of Ancestry Based on 7,342 Individuals

Abstract from the article:

The current genetic makeup of Latin America has been shaped by a history of extensive admixture between Africans, Europeans and Native Americans, a process taking place within the context of extensive geographic and social stratification. We estimated individual ancestry proportions in a sample of 7,342 subjects ascertained in five countries (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, México and Perú). These individuals were also characterized for a range of physical appearance traits and for self-perception of ancestry. The geographic distribution of admixture proportions in this sample reveals extensive population structure, illustrating the continuing impact of demographic history on the genetic diversity of Latin America. Significant ancestry effects were detected for most phenotypes studied. However, ancestry generally explains only a modest proportion of total phenotypic variation. Genetically estimated and self-perceived ancestry correlate significantly, but certain physical attributes have a strong impact on self-perception and bias self-perception of ancestry relative to genetically estimated ancestry.

Author summary:

Latin America has a history of extensive mixing between Native Americans and people arriving from Europe and Africa. As a result, individuals in the region have a highly heterogeneous genetic background and show great variation in physical appearance. Latin America offers an excellent opportunity to examine the genetic basis of the differentiation in physical appearance between Africans, Europeans and Native Americans. The region is also an advantageous setting in which to examine the interplay of genetic, physical and social factors in relation to ethnic/racial self-perception. Here we present the most extensive analysis of genetic ancestry, physical diversity and self-perception of ancestry yet conducted in Latin America. We find significant geographic variation in ancestry across the region, this variation being consistent with demographic history and census information. We show that genetic ancestry impacts many aspects of physical appearance. We observe that self-perception is highly influenced by physical appearance, and that variation in physical appearance biases self-perception of ancestry relative to genetically estimated ancestry.

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