The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Evolutionary impact of recent historical events on the Rama Amerindian population from Nicaragua: Evidence from molecular genetics and isonomy markers


1Department of Anthropology, Lab of Biological Anthropology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 2Centre for Genetic Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Western Australia

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Surname markers were used in conjunction with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup variation to approximate the evolutionary impact of recent historical events on the population structure of seven Rama communities from the Miskito coast of Nicaragua. A sample of 267 individuals was sequenced for hypervariable region-I (HVR-I) from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and confirmed using restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP). Haplogroups were assigned based on nomenclature, revealing the majority of individuals belonged to B2 (74%) or ­­A2 (25%), with the remaining 1% of variation comprised by C1b and L3. These result contrast previous studies that observed high frequencies of haplogroup A2 (> 65%) and moderate levels of B2 (20-30%) among Central American Chibchan speaking matrilineages. Surname analysis included test statistics for inter- and intra-population variation, consanguinity estimates, and isolation by distance while mtDNA analysis employed median-joining networks and multidimensional scaling plots. Mantel tests illustrated a correlation (r = 0.4; P < 0.05) between distance matrices derived from surname and geographic markers among Rama communities.

Surname analysis indicates that a pattern of geographic distribution exists, linking kinships in major subpopulations to remote family-based villages. This is consistent with the maternal genetic lineage where haplogroup B2 is commonly found among peripheral communities and A2 is more frequent in central subpopulations. Ethnographic accounts of sub-population fissions and subsequent forced migrations after the 18th century, congruent with these results, leads to the conclusion that the disruption of the Rama’s traditional way of life by non-indigenous migrants has had significant consequences on their population structure.

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