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Concept: Quechua


The Inca Empire is claimed to have driven massive population movements in western South America, and to have spread Quechua, the most widely-spoken language family of the indigenous Americas. A test-case is the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru, reported as a focal point of Inca population displacements. Chachapoyas also spans the environmental, cultural and demographic divides between Amazonia and the Andes, and stands along the lowest-altitude corridor from the rainforest to the Pacific coast. Following a sampling strategy informed by linguistic data, we collected 119 samples, analysed for full mtDNA genomes and Y-chromosome STRs. We report a high indigenous component, which stands apart from the network of intense genetic exchange in the core central zone of Andean civilization, and is also distinct from neighbouring populations. This unique genetic profile challenges the routine assumption of large-scale population relocations by the Incas. Furthermore, speakers of Chachapoyas Quechua are found to share no particular genetic similarity or gene-flow with Quechua speakers elsewhere, suggesting that here the language spread primarily by cultural diffusion, not migration. Our results demonstrate how population genetics, when fully guided by the archaeological, historical and linguistic records, can inform multiple disciplines within anthropology.

Concepts: South America, Bolivia, Andes, Ecuador, Peru, Inca Empire, Quechua, Inca


Pacopampa, a ceremonial complex in Peru’s northern highlands, reveals early evidence of trauma in the Middle to Late Formative Period coinciding with the emergence of social stratification in the area. We examine the prevalence of trauma in human remains found at the site and present evidence of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of individuals who lived during the early stages of Andean civilization.

Concepts: Pacific Ocean, South America, Bolivia, Andes, Lima, Peru, Arequipa, Quechua


This paper presents the first ethnobotanical survey conducted among the Achuar (Jivaro), indigenous people living in Amazonian Ecuador and Peru. The aims of this study are: (a) to present and discuss Achuar medicinal plant knowledge in the context of the epidemiology of this population (b) to compare the use of Achuar medicinal plants with the uses reported among the Shuar Jivaro and other Amazonian peoples.

Concepts: Herbalism, Colombia, South America, Indigenous peoples, Ecuador, Peru, Quechua, Mestizo


Archaeological research suggests significant human occupation in the arid Andean highlands during the 13th to 15th centuries, whereas paleoclimatic studies reveal prolonged drier and colder conditions during that period. Which subsistence strategy supported local societies in this harsh environment? Our field and aerial surveys of archaeological dwelling sites, granaries, and croplands provide the first evidence of extended pre-Hispanic agriculture supporting dense human populations in the arid Andes of Bolivia. This unique agricultural system associated with quinoa cultivation was unirrigated, consisting of simple yet extensive landscape modifications. It relied on highly specific environmental knowledge and a set of water-saving practices, including microterracing and biennial fallowing. This intense agricultural activity developed during a period of unfavorable climatic change on a regional and global scale, illustrative of efficient adaptive strategies to cope with this climatic change.

Concepts: Agriculture, Climate, Climate change, Andes, World population, Crop rotation, Quechua, Cultivation


Study of human adaptation to extreme environments is important for understanding our cultural and genetic capacity for survival. The Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes contains the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world, about 900 meters above confidently dated contemporary sites. The Pucuncho workshop site [4355 meters above sea level (masl)] includes two fishtail projectile points, which date to about 12.8 to 11.5 thousand years ago (ka). Cuncaicha rock shelter (4480 masl) has a robust, well-preserved, and well-dated occupation sequence spanning the past 12.4 thousand years (ky), with 21 dates older than 11.5 ka. Our results demonstrate that despite cold temperatures and low-oxygen conditions, hunter-gatherers colonized extreme high-altitude Andean environments in the Terminal Pleistocene, within about 2 ky of the initial entry of humans to South America.

Concepts: South America, Americas, Andes, Archaeology, Lima, Peru, Quechua, Date


Rapid 21st-century climate change may lead to large population decreases and extinction in tropical montane cloud forest species in the Andes. While prior research has focused on species migrations per se, ecotones may respond to different environmental factors than species. Even if species can migrate in response to climate change, if ecotones do not they can function as hard barriers to species migrations, making ecotone migrations central to understanding species persistence under scenarios of climate change. We examined a 42-year span of aerial photographs and high resolution satellite imagery to calculate migration rates of timberline-the grassland-forest ecotone-inside and outside of protected areas in the high Peruvian Andes. We found that timberline in protected areas was more likely to migrate upward in elevation than in areas with frequent cattle grazing and fire. However, rates in both protected (0.24 m yr(-1)) and unprotected (0.05 m yr(-1)) areas are only 0.5-2.3% of the rates needed to stay in equilibrium with projected climate by 2100. These ecotone migration rates are 12.5 to 110 times slower than the observed species migration rates within the same forest, suggesting a barrier to migration for mid- and high-elevation species. We anticipate that the ecotone will be a hard barrier to migration under future climate change, leading to drastic population and biodiversity losses in the region unless intensive management steps are taken.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Forest, Bolivia, Andes, Peru, Aerial photography, Arequipa, Quechua


In the Southern Hemisphere, evidence for preindustrial atmospheric pollution is restricted to a few geological archives of low temporal resolution that record trace element deposition originating from past mining and metallurgical operations in South America. Therefore, the timing and the spatial impact of these activities on the past atmosphere remain poorly constrained. Here we present an annually resolved ice core record (A.D. 793-1989) from the high-altitude drilling site of Quelccaya (Peru) that archives preindustrial and industrial variations in trace elements. During the precolonial period (i.e., pre-A.D. 1532), the deposition of trace elements was mainly dominated by the fallout of aeolian dust and of ash from occasional volcanic eruptions, indicating that metallurgic production during the Inca Empire (A.D. 1438-1532) had a negligible impact on the South American atmosphere. In contrast, a widespread anthropogenic signal is evident after around A.D. 1540, which corresponds with the beginning of colonial mining and metallurgy in Peru and Bolivia, ∼240 y before the Industrial Revolution. This shift was due to a major technological transition for silver extraction in South America (A.D. 1572), from lead-based smelting to mercury amalgamation, which precipitated a massive increase in mining activities. However, deposition of toxic trace metals during the Colonial era was still several factors lower than 20th century pollution that was unprecedented over the entirety of human history.

Concepts: Industrial Revolution, Pacific Ocean, Metallurgy, South America, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Quechua


In Ecuador, Tapirus pinchaque is considered to be critically endangered. Although the species has been registered in several localities, its geographic distribution remains unclear, and the effects of climate change and current land uses on this species are largely unknown. We modeled the ecological niche of T. pinchaque using MaxEnt, in order to assess its potential adaptation to present and future climate change scenarios. We evaluated the effects of habitat loss due by current land use, the ecosystem availability and importance of Ecuadorian System of Protected Areas into the models. The model of environmental suitability estimated an extent of occurrence for species of 21,729 km2 in all of Ecuador, mainly occurring along the corridor of the eastern Ecuadorian Andes. A total of 10 Andean ecosystems encompassed ~98% of the area defined by the model, with herbaceous paramo, northeastern Andean montane evergreen forest and northeastern Andes upper montane evergreen forest being the most representative. When considering the effect of habitat loss, a significant reduction in model area (~17%) occurred, and the effect of climate change represented a net reduction up to 37.86%. However, the synergistic effect of both climate change and habitat loss, given current land use practices, could represent a greater risk in the short-term, leading to a net reduction of 19.90 to 44.65% in T. pinchaque’s potential distribution. Even under such a scenarios, several Protected Areas harbor a portion (~36 to 48%) of the potential distribution defined by the models. However, the central and southern populations are highly threatened by habitat loss and climate change. Based on these results and due to the restricted home range of T. pinchaque, its preference for upland forests and paramos, and its small estimated population size in the Andes, we suggest to maintaining its current status as Critically Endangered in Ecuador.

Concepts: Ecosystem, South America, Andes, Quito, Ecuador, Quechua, Tapir, Mountain Tapir


The ridges and valleys of the Andes create physical barriers that limit animal dispersal and cause deterministic local variation in rainfall. This has resulted in physical isolation of animal populations and variation in habitats, each of which has likely contributed to the evolution of high species diversity in the region. However, the relative influences of geographic isolation, ecoclimatic conditions, and their potential interactions remain poorly understood. To address this, we compared patterns of genetic and morphological diversity in Peruvian populations of the hummingbird Metallura tyrianthina.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Bolivia, Andes, Lima, Peru, Arequipa, Quechua


We studied the phylogeography and plumage variation of the Russet-crowned Warbler (Myiothlypis coronata), from Venezuela to Bolivia, with focus on populations from Ecuador and northern Peru. We analyzed sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear genes, geographic distributions, as well as photographs of specimens deposited at museum collections. Phylogenetic analyses identified three major lineages formed by populations from: Venezuela and Colombia (M. c. regulus), Ecuador and northern Peru (M. elata, M. castaneiceps, M. orientalis, M. c. chapmani), and central Peru and Bolivia (M. c. coronata). We found further population structure within M. c. regulus and M. c. coronata, and population structure and complexity of plumage variation within the Ecuador-northern Peru lineage. Time-calibrated trees estimated that most intraspecific variation originated during the Pleistocene; however, this pattern may not be attributed to an increase in diversification rate during that period. We discuss these results in the context of the importance of geographic-ecological barriers in promoting lineage diversification along the Andes and put forward a preliminary taxonomic proposal for major lineages identified in this study.

Concepts: Colombia, South America, Bolivia, Chile, Andes, Peru, Quechua, Venezuela