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Keywords:

  • South American aborigines;
  • evolutionary relationships;
  • geometric morphometrics;
  • mtDNA

Abstract

This study aims to integrate the craniofacial morphological variation of southern South American populations with the results of mtDNA haplogroup variation, to discuss the South America peopling. Because the causes of morphological differentiation of Fueguian populations are still a controversial subject, the comparison with neutral variation could contribute to elucidate them. Samples of human remains from South America regions were used to analyze the evolutionary relationships. Several craniofacial traits observed in frontal and lateral view were analyzed by means of geometric morphometrics techniques, and the evolutionary relationships based on morphological and molecular data were established in base to ordination analyses. The results from the facial skeleton agree with those obtained from mtDNA haplogroup frequencies, with La Pampa/Chaco samples detached from the Patagonian samples. Hence, the same mechanism that accounts for the pattern of frequency of haplogroups could explain the variation found in facial skeleton among the samples. It is suggested that such geographic pattern of craniofacial and molecular diversity may reflect the effect of genetic drift that occurred in the small founding populations isolated by distance or geographic barriers. Conversely, the results obtained using the traits from the lateral view slightly differ from the molecular results, showing differences between southernmost Patagonian and the other samples. Therefore, mechanisms other than genetic drift (e.g., natural selection) could have acted to shape the pattern observed in some craniofacial structures present in the lateral view, characterized by the fact that the southernmost Patagonian samples display the most robust and dolichocephalic crania. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.