Beringia and the peopling of the Western Hemisphere

Proc Biol Sci. 2023 Jan 11;290(1990):20222246. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2022.2246. Epub 2023 Jan 11.

ABSTRACT

Did Beringian environments represent an ecological barrier to humans until less than 15 000 years ago or was access to the Americas controlled by the spatial-temporal distribution of North American ice sheets? Beringian environments varied with respect to climate and biota, especially in the two major areas of exposed continental shelf. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf (‘Great Arctic Plain’ (GAP)) supported a dry steppe-tundra biome inhabited by a diverse large-mammal community, while the southern Bering-Chukchi Platform (‘Bering Land Bridge’ (BLB)) supported mesic tundra and probably a lower large-mammal biomass. A human population with west Eurasian roots occupied the GAP before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and may have accessed mid-latitude North America via an interior ice-free corridor. Re-opening of the corridor less than 14 000 years ago indicates that the primary ancestors of living First Peoples, who already had spread widely in the Americas at this time, probably dispersed from the NW Pacific coast. A genetic ‘arctic signal’ in non-arctic First Peoples suggests that their parent population inhabited the GAP during the LGM, before their split from the former. We infer a shift from GAP terrestrial to a subarctic maritime economy on the southern BLB coast before dispersal in the Americas from the NW Pacific coast.

PMID:36629115 | DOI:10.1098/rspb.2022.2246

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