A recent article in ScienceNews discusses recent research on the genetic diversity found in Native Americans today. DNA testing has been used to trace the population shifts that occurred when European explorers reached the Americas.

A group of scientists have observed a striking change in the DNA of Native Americans that may correlate with the introduction of smallpox to the continent—estimates show that there was as much as 50% decrease in the Native American population due to the disease.

The Native American population rebounded within 200 to 300 years, according to the article. Those who survived the disease would have acquired greater resistance to it, and passed the resistance on to succeeding generations. Four out of the 5 major DNA sequence patterns found in Native Americans today seems to have arisen within the past few hundred years, correlating with the time frame of the first European contact.

The testing performed in this study focuses on mitochondrial DNA, used in DDC’s maternal lineage testing service. This test is used by family history researchers and genealogy enthusiasts as a tool to gain more insight into their family’s deep ancestral roots.

DDC also offers DNA testing services for Native Americans to provide proof for biological relationships (paternity or other family relationships), which may be needed in the process of enrolling for tribal membership. Several Native American tribes currently use our services to establish paternity, provide supporting evidence for enrollment or disenrollment, reunite adopted children with their biological relatives, and claim child support and other benefits.