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Concept: Latin America


The explosive pandemic of Zika virus infection occurring throughout South America, Central America, and the Caribbean (see map) and potentially threatening the United States is the most recent of four unexpected arrivals of important arthropod-borne viral diseases in the Western Hemisphere over the past 20 years. It follows dengue, which entered this hemisphere stealthily over decades and then more aggressively in the 1990s; West Nile virus, which emerged in 1999; and chikungunya, which emerged in 2013. Are the successive migrations of these viruses unrelated, or do they reflect important new patterns of disease emergence? Furthermore, are there secondary health consequences . . .

Concepts: United States, North America, South America, Americas, Latin America, Caribbean, Central America, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


The exact timing, route, and process of the initial peopling of the Americas remains uncertain despite much research. Archaeological evidence indicates the presence of humans as far as southern Chile by 14.6 thousand years ago (ka), shortly after the Pleistocene ice sheets blocking access from eastern Beringia began to retreat. Genetic estimates of the timing and route of entry have been constrained by the lack of suitable calibration points and low genetic diversity of Native Americans. We sequenced 92 whole mitochondrial genomes from pre-Columbian South American skeletons dating from 8.6 to 0.5 ka, allowing a detailed, temporally calibrated reconstruction of the peopling of the Americas in a Bayesian coalescent analysis. The data suggest that a small population entered the Americas via a coastal route around 16.0 ka, following previous isolation in eastern Beringia for ~2.4 to 9 thousand years after separation from eastern Siberian populations. Following a rapid movement throughout the Americas, limited gene flow in South America resulted in a marked phylogeographic structure of populations, which persisted through time. All of the ancient mitochondrial lineages detected in this study were absent from modern data sets, suggesting a high extinction rate. To investigate this further, we applied a novel principal components multiple logistic regression test to Bayesian serial coalescent simulations. The analysis supported a scenario in which European colonization caused a substantial loss of pre-Columbian lineages.

Concepts: DNA, Regression analysis, United States, Brazil, South America, Americas, Latin America, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


In 1985, a frozen mummy was found in Cerro Aconcagua (Argentina). Archaeological studies identified the mummy as a seven-year-old Inca sacrifice victim who lived >500 years ago, at the time of the expansion of the Inca Empire towards the southern cone. The sequence of its entire mitogenome was obtained. After querying a large worldwide database of mitogenomes (>28,000) we found that the Inca haplotype belonged to a branch of haplogroup C1b (C1bi) that has not yet been identified in modern Native Americans. The expansion of C1b into the Americas, as estimated using 203 C1b mitogenomes, dates to the initial Paleoindian settlements (~18.3 thousand years ago [kya]); however, its internal variation differs between Mesoamerica and South America. By querying large databases of control region haplotypes (>150,000), we found only a few C1bi members in Peru and Bolivia (e.g. Aymaras), including one haplotype retrieved from ancient DNA of an individual belonging to the Wari Empire (Peruvian Andes). Overall, the results suggest that the profile of the mummy represents a very rare sub-clade that arose 14.3 (5-23.6) kya and could have been more frequent in the past. A Peruvian Inca origin for present-day C1bi haplotypes would satisfy both the genetic and paleo-anthropological findings.

Concepts: South America, Americas, Argentina, Latin America, Chile, Andes, Peru, Inca Empire


The rapid spread of Zika virus in the Americas and current outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil has raised attention to the possible deleterious effects that the virus may have on fetuses.

Concepts: Fertility, Abortion, São Paulo, German language, Americas, Latin America, Hydrops fetalis, Rh disease


Questions surrounding the chronology, place, and character of the initial human colonization of the Americas are a long-standing focus of debate. Interdisciplinary debate continues over the timing of entry, the rapidity and direction of dispersion, the variety of human responses to diverse habitats, the criteria for evaluating the validity of early sites, and the differences and similarities between colonization in North and South America. Despite recent advances in our understanding of these issues, archaeology still faces challenges in defining interdisciplinary research problems, assessing the reliability of the data, and applying new interpretative models. As the debates and challenges continue, new studies take place and previous research reexamined. Here we discuss recent exploratory excavation at and interdisciplinary data from the Monte Verde area in Chile to further our understanding of the first peopling of the Americas. New evidence of stone artifacts, faunal remains, and burned areas suggests discrete horizons of ephemeral human activity in a sandur plain setting radiocarbon and luminescence dated between at least ~18,500 and 14,500 cal BP. Based on multiple lines of evidence, including sedimentary proxies and artifact analysis, we present the probable anthropogenic origins and wider implications of this evidence. In a non-glacial cold climate environment of the south-central Andes, which is challenging for human occupation and for the preservation of hunter-gatherer sites, these horizons provide insight into an earlier context of late Pleistocene human behavior in northern Patagonia.

Concepts: Debate, Human behavior, South America, Americas, Latin America, Pleistocene, Archaeology, Prehistory


Most individuals throughout the Americas are admixed descendants of Native American, European, and African ancestors. Complex historical factors have resulted in varying proportions of ancestral contributions between individuals within and among ethnic groups. We developed a panel of 446 ancestry informative markers (AIMs) optimized to estimate ancestral proportions in individuals and populations throughout Latin America. We used genome-wide data from 953 individuals from diverse African, European, and Native American populations to select AIMs optimized for each of the three main continental populations that form the basis of modern Latin American populations. We selected markers on the basis of locus-specific branch length to be informative, well distributed throughout the genome, capable of being genotyped on widely available commercial platforms, and applicable throughout the Americas by minimizing within-continent heterogeneity. We then validated the panel in samples from four admixed populations by comparing ancestry estimates based on the AIMs panel to estimates based on genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. The panel provided balanced discriminatory power among the three ancestral populations and accurate estimates of individual ancestry proportions (R² > 0.9 for ancestral components with significant between-subject variance). Finally, we genotyped samples from 18 populations from Latin America using the AIMs panel and estimated variability in ancestry within and between these populations. This panel and its reference genotype information will be useful resources to explore population history of admixture in Latin America and to correct for the potential effects of population stratification in admixed samples in the region.

Concepts: United States, Spanish language, North America, South America, Americas, Latin America, Nicaragua, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


The increasing burdens of obesity and diabetes are two of the most prominent threats to the health of populations of developed and developing countries alike. The Central America Diabetes Initiative (CAMDI) is the first study to examine the prevalence of diabetes in Central America.

Concepts: Mexico, North America, Americas, Latin America, Caribbean, Central America, Nicaragua


Drugs dedicated to alleviate neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have always been associated with debilitating side effects. Medicinal mushrooms which harness neuropharmacological compounds offer a potential possibility for protection against such diseases. Pleurotus giganteus (formerly known as Panus giganteus) has been consumed by the indigenous people in Peninsular Malaysia for many years. Domestication of this wild mushroom is gaining popularity but to our knowledge, medicinal properties reported for this culinary mushroom are minimal.

Concepts: Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, Latin America, Malaysia, Agaricus bisporus, Indigenous peoples, Agaricales, Pleurotus nebrodensis


Stelis (Orchidaceae) encompasses approximately 1100 species of epiphytic orchids distributed throughout the Neotropics, with the highest diversity in Andean South America. Sixty-two species were recorded previously in Mexico.

Concepts: Pacific Ocean, North America, South America, Americas, Latin America, Pleurothallis, Orchidaceae, Masdevallia


WITH ANALYSES OF ENTIRE MITOGENOMES, STUDIES OF NATIVE AMERICAN MITOCHONDRIAL DNA (MTDNA) VARIATION HAVE ENTERED THE FINAL PHASE OF PHYLOGENETIC REFINEMENT: the dissection of the founding haplogroups into clades that arose in America during and after human arrival and spread. Ages and geographic distributions of these clades could provide novel clues on the colonization processes of the different regions of the double continent. As for the Southern Cone of South America, this approach has recently allowed the identification of two local clades (D1g and D1j) whose age estimates agree with the dating of the earliest archaeological sites in South America, indicating that Paleo-Indians might have reached that region from Beringia in less than 2000 years. In this study, we sequenced 46 mitogenomes belonging to two additional clades, termed B2i2 (former B2l) and C1b13, which were recently identified on the basis of mtDNA control-region data and whose geographical distributions appear to be restricted to Chile and Argentina. We confirm that their mutational motifs most likely arose in the Southern Cone region. However, the age estimate for B2i2 and C1b13 (11-13,000 years) appears to be younger than those of other local clades. The difference could reflect the different evolutionary origins of the distinct South American-specific sub-haplogroups, with some being already present, at different times and locations, at the very front of the expansion wave in South America, and others originating later in situ, when the tribalization process had already begun. A delayed origin of a few thousand years in one of the locally derived populations, possibly in the central part of Chile, would have limited the geographical and ethnic diffusion of B2i2 and explain the present-day occurrence that appears to be mainly confined to the Tehuelche and Araucanian-speaking groups.

Concepts: South America, Americas, Latin America, Chile, Patagonia, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Southern Cone, Operation Condor