John Hawks praises the studies authors including FAU’s Andre Luiz Campelo dos Santos for the amazing discovery

John HawksJohn Hawks is well-known to readers of Subspecieist.  He is the Department Head of Evolutionary Studies at the University of Wisconsin.  He is also a friend and colleague of Professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, who discovered Australopithecus and Homo naledi.

Our most recent article, December 12,

Lee Berger’s stunning announcement: Evidence found of Homo naledi fire use in Rising Star cave

Andre Luis Campello de Santos is a PhD in Archaeology and a professor at Florida Atlantic University, FAU · Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

On December 8, Dr. Hawks Tweeted out to his 26,000 followers:

New paper in AmJbioAnth by Campello de Santos et al surveys ancient DNA from across the Americas.  Intriguing suggestion of ancentral component related to Oceanian populations.

From the Abstract of the new paper,

Genomic evidence for ancient human migration routes along South America’s Atlantic coast

Andre Luiz Campelo dos SantosAn increasing body of archaeological and genomic evidence has hinted at a complex settlement process of the Americas by humans. This is especially true for South America, where unexpected ancestral signals have raised perplexing scenarios for the early migrations into different regions of the continent. Here, we present ancient human genomes from the archaeologically rich Northeast Brazil and compare them to ancient and present-day genomic data. We find a distinct relationship between ancient genomes from Northeast Brazil, Lagoa Santa, Uruguay and Panama, representing evidence for ancient migration routes along South America’s Atlantic coast.

To further add to the existing complexity, we also detect greater Denisovan than Neanderthal ancestry in ancient Uruguay and Panama individuals. Moreover, we find a strong Australasian signal in an ancient genome from Panama. This work sheds light on the deep demographic history of eastern South America and presents a starting point for future fine-scale investigations on the regional level.

The studies authors include:

Andre Luiz Campelo dos Santos, Amanda Owings, Henry Socrates, Lavalle Sullasi, Omer Gokcumen, Michael DeGiorgio and John Lindo.

From, December 2,

Ancient DNA analysis unravels the early peopling of South America

“Our study provides key genomic evidence for ancient migration events at the regional scale along South America’s Atlantic coast,” said Michael DeGiorgio, Ph.D., co-corresponding author who specializes in human, evolutionary, and computational genomics and is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science within FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. “These regional events likely derived from migratory waves involving the initial Indigenous peoples of South America near the Pacific coast.”

Professor Campelo de Santos has since published another paper, on the closely related subject matter of North American Beringian populations’ DNA, December 8, 2022,

Spatiotemporal fluctuations of population structure in the Americas revealed by a meta‐analysis of the first decade of archaeogenomes

the population structure of contemporary Native Americans, traced here to at least 10,000 years before present, is noticeably less diverse than their ancient counterparts, a possible outcome of the European contact. Additionally, in the past there were greater levels of population structure in North than in South America, except for ancient Brazil, which harbors comparatively high degrees of structure. Moreover, we find a component of genetic ancestry in the ancient dataset that is closely related to that of present‐day Oceanic populations but does not correspond to the previously reported Australasian signal. [Emphasis added.]
Current archaeological evidence for cross-South Pacific travel for Australasians is scant at best.  However, as Professor Campos de Santos points out, Denisovan DNA signals in North American Beringians (Amerindians) has not been found.  So, the most likely explanation is ancient cross-ocean journeys by Australasian populations.  Campos de Santos:
“There is an entire Pacific Ocean between Australasia and the Americas, and we still don’t know how these ancestral genomic signals appeared in Central and South America without leaving traces in North America.”


A colleague of Professor Campos dos Santos, well-known celebrity paleo-anthropologist John Lindo offers a possible explanation:

John LIndo“It’s phenomenal that Denisovan ancestry made it all the way to South America,” says John Lindo, Ph.D., a co-corresponding author of the article who specializes in ancient DNA analysis and is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University. “The admixture must have occurred a long time before, perhaps 40,000 years ago.

The fact that the Denisovan lineage persisted and its genetic signal made it into an ancient individual from Uruguay that is only 1,500 years old suggests that it was a large admixture event between a population of humans and Denisovans.”

Connection to the enigmatic 3rd Denisovan population in Oceania?

There are three putative subspecies of Denisovans – Altai region, Southern and a third as yet undefined group.  DNA signals have been detected in Papuans and other Australasians of this third enigmatic Denisovan subspecies.
From our article here at Subspecieist, August 2021,

Denisovan DNA as high as 6% discovered by Swedish team in Philippines Ayta

Ayta MagbukonA team of computational geneticists and human evolution scientists, have just identified the most unique human population of our species alive today.  Their research paper was released on August 12, and has since garnered worldwide media attention.
The team, largely based in Sweden at Upsalla University includes Maximilian Larena, Federico Sanchez-Quinto, James McKenna and Mattias Jakobsson (photo).  Interestingly, they were doing genetics research a much broader based genetics project.  They stumbled on this genetics anomaly, and decided to change the course of their research.

CNN reported, Aug. 16, 2021,

New clue to human evolution’s biggest mystery emerges in Philippines

Denisovan DNA lives on in some humans today because, once our Homo sapien ancestors encountered the Denisovans, they had sex with them and gave birth to babies – something geneticists call admixture. By analyzing current-day genetic data, we can look back into human history.

The “admixing” happened more than 50,000 years ago, as modern humans moved out of Africa and likely crossed paths with both Neanderthals and Denisovans. But pinning down exactly where it happened has proven difficult – particularly in the case of Denisovans.

Note – the cover photo for this article is of the Ayta Magbukon tribe in isolated rural Philippines.


Author Eric

FSU grad, US Navy Veteran. Houston, Texas

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