Population genomics of Mesolithic Scandinavia: Investigating early postglacial migration routes and high-latitude adaptation
AuthorGünther, Torsten; Malmström, Helena; Svensson, Emma M.; Omrak, Ayça; Sánchez-Quinto, Frederico; Kılınç, Gülşah M.; Krzewinska, Maja; Eriksson, Gunilla; Fraser, Magdalena; Edlund, Hanna; Munteres, Arielle R.; Coutinho, Alexandra; Simões, Luciana G.; Vicente, Mário; Sjölander, Anders; Sellevold, Berit J.; Jørgensen, Roger; Claes, Peter; Shriver, Mark D.; Valdiosera, Cristina; Netea, Mihai G.; Apel, Jan; Lidén, Kerstin Birgitta; Skar, Birgitte; Storå, Jan; Götherström, Anders; Jakobsson, Mattias
Scandinavia was one of the last geographic areas in Europe to become habitable for humans after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). However, the routes and genetic composition of these postglacial migrants remain unclear. We sequenced the genomes, up to 57× coverage, of seven hunter-gatherers excavated across Scandinavia and dated from 9,500–6,000 years before present (BP). Surprisingly, among the Scandinavian Mesolithic individuals, the genetic data display an east–west genetic gradient that opposes the pattern seen in other parts of Mesolithic Europe. Our results suggest two different early postglacial migrations into Scandinavia: initially from the south, and later, from the northeast. The latter followed the ice-free Norwegian north Atlantic coast, along which novel and advanced pressure-blade stone-tool techniques may have spread. These two groups met and mixed in Scandinavia, creating a genetically diverse population, which shows patterns of genetic adaptation to high latitude environments. These potential adaptations include high frequencies of low pigmentation variants and a gene region associated with physical performance, which shows strong continuity into modern-day northern Europeans.Author summary: The Scandinavian peninsula was the last part of Europe to be colonized after the Last Glacial Maximum. The migration routes, cultural networks, and the genetic makeup of the first Scandinavians remain elusive and several hypotheses exist based on archaeology, climate modeling, and genetics. By analyzing the genomes of early Scandinavian hunter-gatherers, we show that their migrations followed two routes: one from the south and another from the northeast along the ice-free Norwegian Atlantic coast. These groups met and mixed in Scandinavia, creating a population more diverse than contemporaneous central and western European hunter-gatherers. As northern Europe is associated with cold and low light conditions, we investigated genomic patterns of adaptation to these conditions and genes known to be involved in skin pigmentation. We demonstrate that Mesolithic Scandinavians had higher levels of light pigmentation variants compared to the respective source populations of the migrations, suggesting adaptation to low light levels and a surprising signal of genetic continuity in TMEM131, a gene that may be involved in long-term adaptation to the cold.
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Günther, T., Malmström, H., Svensson, E.M., Omrak, A., Sánchez-Quinto, F., Kılınç, G., ... Jakobsson, M. (2018). Population genomics of Mesolithic Scandinavia: Investigating early postglacial migration routes and high-latitude adaptation. PLoS biology, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2003703. Source at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2003703.