The United Kingdom has a history of invasions and conquests by various European populations. The Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans all made the UK their home at some point in the past. Which of these populations made the most impact, in terms of genetics? Which geographical regions are similar to each other genetically?
In order to answer these questions, researchers from the University College of London, University of Oxford and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, analyzed DNA samples of around 2000 UK residents whose grandparents all lived within 80km of each other. Comparison of the DNA of the UK residents with the DNA of 6000 people from other parts of Europe helped researchers trace migration patterns over a period of 10,000 years.
Some interesting results from the study:
- Anglo Saxon DNA is the most commonly found among UK residents today, constituting around 30% of the study population, meaning that Britons are more genetically similar to people fro parts of France and Germany.
- The Normans and Vikings, though previously having occupied the British Isles for a long span of time, had relatively no apparent effect on DNA.
- The Orkney Islands off northern Scotland is the most genetically distinct region from the rest of the UK and has predominantly Norwegian roots.
What is particularly interesting about this study is that the results obtained coincide with known historical events of the British Isles.
“These researchers have been able to use modern genetic techniques to provide answers to the centuries’ old question — where we come from. Beyond the fascinating insights into our history, this information could prove very useful from a health perspective, as building a picture of population genetics at this scale may in future help us to design better genetic studies to investigate disease,” said Dr Michael Dunn, Head of Genetics & Molecular Sciences at the Wellcome Trust.
The original article can be accessed here.