DNA of the Canary islanders

A Tale of Aborigines, Conquerors and Slaves: Alu Insertion Polymorphisms and the Peopling of Canary Islands

N. Maca-Meyer, J. Villar, L. Pérez-Méndez, A. Cabrera de León and C. Flores*

Classical, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome markers have been used to examine the genetic admixture in present day inhabitants of the Canary Islands. In this study, we report the analysis of ten autosomal Alu insertion polymorphisms in 364 samples from the seven main islands of the Archipelago, and their comparison to continental samples. The detection of population-specific alleles from the Iberian Peninsula and Northwest Africa, as well as their affinities on the basis of genetic distances and principal component analysis, support a clear link between these populations. Coincident with previous results, the Canarian gene pool can be distinguished as being halfway between those of its putative parents, although with a major Iberian contribution (62-78%). Both the substantial Northwest African contribution (23-38%), and the minor sub-Saharan African input (3%), suggest that the genetic legacy from the aborigines and slaves still persists in the Canary Islanders.

It seems the descendants of the Guanches still live on. the NW African DNA sequences are seen in the ancient Guanche mummies..

Ancient mtDNA Analysis and the Origin of the Guanches

Nicole Maca-Meyer et al.

The prehistoric colonisation of the Canary Islands by the Guanches (native Canarians) woke up great expectation about their origin, since the Europeans conquest of the Archipelago. Here, we report mitochondrial DNA analysis (HVRI sequences and RFLPs) of aborigine remains around 1000 years old. The sequences retrieved show that the Guanches possessed U6b1 lineages that are in the present day Canarian population, but not in Africans. In turn, U6b, the phylogenetically closest ancestor found in Africa, is not present in the Canary Islands. Comparisons with other populations relate the Guanches with the actual inhabitants of the Archipelago and with Moroccan Berbers. This shows that, despite the continuous changes suffered by the population (Spanish colonisation, slave trade), aboriginal mtDNA lineages constitute a considerable proportion of the Canarian gene pool. Although the Berbers are the most probable ancestors of the Guanches, it is deduced that important human movements have reshaped Northwest Africa after the migratory wave to the Canary Islands


As you can see, the Guanches were most closely related to Modern Moroccan Berbers. These people.


 The study also says…

However, molecular relationships point to the Moroccan Berbers as the most related African population to the Guanches, confirming, at a genetic level, the previous general supposition of the strong cultural and anthropological affinities between the Guanches and the westernmost African Berbers….

Quantitative admixture approaches, using the aboriginal sample as a parental contributor, showed that the Guanches constitute 42–73% of the present day Canarian maternal gene pool.

My own page on the Guanches here.


One response to “DNA of the Canary islanders

  1. This is very interesting. I live in Morocco and am very interested in following all the genetic studies of this area. So glad to see you are addressing some of these issues.

    I found your blog through 100 Swallows.

    Margot in Marrakesh

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