Mitochondrial DNA patterns in the macaronesia Islands: Variation within and among archipelagos

Cristina Santos, Rosa Fregel, Vincente M. Cabrera, Ana M. González, José M. Larruga, Manuela Lima

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Macaronesia covers four Atlantic archipelagos: the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, and the Cape Verde islands. When discovered by Europeans in the 15th century, only the Canaries were inhabited. Historical reports highlight the impact of Iberians on settlement in Macaronesia. Although important differences in their settlement are documented, its influence on their genetic structures and relationships has yet to be ascertained. In this study, the hypervariable region I (HVRI) sequence and coding region polymorphisms ofmitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in 623 individuals from the Azores (120) and Canary Islands (503) were analyzed.Combined with published data, these give a total of 1,542 haplotypes from Macaronesia and 1,067 from theIberian Peninsula. The results obtained indicate that Cape Verde is the most distinctive archipelago, with an mtDNA pool composed almost exclusively of African lineages. However, the other archipelagos present an mtDNA profile dominated by the presence of West-Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups with African lineages present in varying proportions. Moreover, no signs of integration of typical Canarian U6 lineages in the other archipelagos were detected. The four Macaronesia archipelagos currently have differentiated genetic profiles, and the Azores present the highest intra-archipelago differentiation and the lowest values of diversity. The analyses performed show that the present-day genetic profile of the Macaronesian archipelagos was mainly determined by the initial process of settlement and further microdifferentiation probably as a consequence of the small population size of some islands. Moreover, contacts between archipelagos seem to have had a low impact on the mtDNA genetic pool of each archipelago. Am J Phys Anthropol 141:610-619, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-619
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • African lineages
  • Haplogroup
  • MtDNA
  • Y-chromosome


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