Research lines

Our current main lines of research are:

1. The population history of European human groups

In order to shed light to the reconstruction of human migrations in the European continent, we analyze the genomic diversity of Europeans through different approaches using from uniparental markers (mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome) to whole genomes, as well as standardized methods of analysis..

These analyses have allowed us to provide a finer resolution of the migrations within Europe and neighbouring geographic areas. The paradigmatic cases of the Basques or the Ibizans are two examples of the inferences we are performing within the population history of European groups. We are also interested in population minorities, which have been uderrepresented in most genomic projects.

2. The population structure of North African populations

Population genetic structure in North Africa

Human populations in North Africa are completely different from the rest of the continent in genetic terms, since its settlement and its posterior contacts have been almost independent from the sub-Saharan area. The human movements in this region have been constrained by the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, which have limited the migrations into an east-west direction, although these barriers have not been totally impermeable to human movements.

The present research line aims to analyze the genetic diversity of human North African populations in order to establish their population structure and determine the impact of several cultural and historical migrations into the gene pool of the extant North African groups. Several human populations are been analyzed using high resolution uniparental markers (mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome) in order to define maternally- and paternally-inherited lineages, and whole genome autosomal markers (SNPs), copy number variants (CNV).

The goal is correlate genetic, geographic and linguistic diversity of these populations, compare them to other surrounding populations and test demographic hypotheses. If the Mediterranean and the Sahara have acted as strong genetic barriers, differences in population structure and composition of uniparental lineages will be observed when comparing North African results with surrounding populations. Possible gene flow can be determined, quantified, and dated. In addition, if cultural migrations (such as the Neolithic or the Arabization of the region) have acted differentially along the North African territory, genetic differences (in uniparental lineages and autosomal markers) between groups will be detected, quantified and dated. Finally, the refined phylogeography of uniparental genomes jointly with the analysis of whole genome data are been used to detect sexual migration asymmetries in North African populations.

3. The Roma: the demographic history of European Gypsies

Maternal lineages in Roma communities

Although the exact figures are uncertain, the population size of Roma in Europe according to the Council of Europe might range from 10 to 12 million, with the largest numbers concentrated in Central and South-Eastern Europe where they might comprise more than 7% of the population in some countries. Mainly of nomadic lifestyle and with endogamous social practices, the geographically dispersed Roma groups have been socially marginalized and historically persecuted. The dispersion of Roma through Europe might represent one of the most remarkable human movements in the continent in historical times. Unfortunately, no written records are available for this diasporic process. Linguistic, anthropological, and genetic evidences point to an Indian origin of the Roma, which might have left the Indian sub-continent approximately between the 5th and 10th centuries.

Our goal is to unravel, through the analysis of uniparental and whole genome autosomal markers, the geographic origin of the Roma, their migration routes to Europe, their settlement in Europe, the admixture with host populations and the sexual asymetry of the admixture.