The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Maternal genetic structure of the Poqomchi’ Maya of eastern Guatemala

ANNE E. JUSTICE1,2 and MICHAEL H. CRAWFORD1.

1Anthropology, Lab of Biological Anthropology, University of Kansas, 2Epidemiology, University of North Carolina

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Poqomchi’ Maya is spoken in the eastern Guatemalan highlands and western El Salvador. This population is of special interest because of their relative isolation from Europeans and non-Mayan populations. This project characterizes the genetic structure of the Poqomchi’ using mtDNA haplogroup and sequence variation and compares the results to published data on surrounding Maya and non-Mayan Indians. These data are used to make inferences into the legitimacy of treating Maya as a homogenous population distinct from other major language and ethnic groups. Blood samples were collected from two Poqomchi’ aldeas in Alta Vera Paz, Guatemala. A 446 bp fragment of HVS1 was sequenced and haplogroup assignment confirmed on a subset of the samples using SBE multiplex assay. The sample exhibits 100% Native American mtDNA haplogroups representing three of the five common in the Americas (A=81.5%, B=9.25%, C=9.25%). The Poqomchi’ exhibit moderate levels of diversity (h=0.94710 and π=0.01469). This diversity has accumulated during a recent population expansion as evidenced by significantly negative Tajima’s D and Fu’s Fs scores (-1.51109, -21.84239) and an accumulation of low frequency mutations. MJ network analysis, mismatch analysis, and MDS plots were performed. The population exhibits a genetic similarity to other Maya and Mexican populations; however some substructure is present due to the absence of non-Native admixture and haplogroup D. These findings are consistent with previous studies in Central America and Mesoamerica. Despite a long history of European colonization, the sample exhibits 100% Native American mtDNA haplogroups owing to their isolation within the Guatemalan highlands.

This research was funded by a General Research Fund grant from the University of Kansas and the Tinker Foundation Summer Field Research Grant.

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