The European continent has a complex human evolutionary history. The first modern humans are believed to have entered Europe some 40,000 years ago, at a time when Neanderthals were the predominant Homo species (or subspecies). In the subsequent millennia a series of environmental and climatic fluctuations have occurred, which caused much of the flora and fauna of the continent to move and migrate in order to maintain viable populations in the habitats to which they had evolved. Humans were no different. These factors, together with successive waves of new peoples from the Middle East and elsewhere, such as the so-called Neolithic farmers, have combined to produce the present genetic variation in Europe today. The impact of these events, and of the more recent historical episodes of migration and admixture, is hotly debated among geneticists, historians, demographers and so on.
This project aims to investigate the present population structure of Europe to gather new insights on the role played by these events in shaping continental genetic variation. We initially focused on Y chromosome markers to build up on the large body of data available on European populations. Our results (Busby et al, 2012 –http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/279/1730/884.long ) showed that microsatellites require careful handling when tackling issues like lineage dating.