Maternal lineages of West Eurasian and North African origin account for 11.5% of total mitochondrial ancestry in Puerto Rico. Historical sources suggest that this ancestry arrived mostly from European migrations that took place during the four centuries of the Spanish colonization of Puerto Rico. This study analyzed 101 mitochondrial control region sequences and diagnostic coding region variants from a sample set randomly and systematically selected using a census-based sampling frame to be representative of the Puerto Rican population, with the goal of defining West Eurasian—North African maternal clades and estimating their possible geographical origin. Median-joining haplotype networks were constructed using hypervariable regions 1 and 2 sequences from various reference populations in search of shared haplotypes. A posterior probability analysis was performed to estimate the percentage of possible origins across wide geographic regions for the entire sample set and for the most common haplogroups on the island. Principal component analyses were conducted to place the Puerto Rican mtDNA set within the variation present among all reference populations. Our study shows that up to 38% of West Eurasian and North African mitochondrial ancestry in Puerto Rico most likely migrated from the Canary Islands. However, most of those haplotypes had previously migrated to the Canary Islands from elsewhere, and there are substantial contributions from various populations across the circum-Mediterranean region and from West African populations related to the modern Wolof and Serer peoples from Senegal and the nomad Fulani who extend up to Cameroon. In conclusion, the West Eurasian mitochondrial ancestry in Puerto Ricans is geographically diverse. However, haplotype diversity seems to be low, and frequencies have been shaped by population bottlenecks, migration waves, and random genetic drift. Consequently, approximately 47% of mtDNAs of West Eurasian and North African ancestry in Puerto Rico probably arrived early in its colonial history.
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Vol. 89 • No. 2