Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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A Historic Bottleneck

This article cites a DNA study that estimates the original colonists of North America numbered about 70 people (who left descendants).  I am fascinated, but a bit dubious, given that Minimum Viable Population numbers tend to run 500-1000 if not accounting for inbreeding or well into the thousands with inbreeding counted in.  The founder effect details some of the odd things that can happen with a small initial gene pool.  Historical probability is that those colonists would have been related to each other: one tribe on the move, or 2-3 large families separately, would cover the ancestors and leave room for extras who didn't leave any genetic imprints.  It's a lot harder to establish a healthy population if the founders are closely related than if they are unrelated.

We did some serious research on this stuff for Torn World, because the Upheaval greatly reduced the human population overall and diced up the human species into separate populations.  The North was lucky in that they had a wide genetic base, even though the starting number was low.  Some other places started out with a deep-rooted settlement and population, so people were already related.  That's a likely contributor toward cases like the Glifai with their odd genetic quirk of not manifesting a sex until puberty.
Tags: ethnic studies, history, news, science
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