UPR professor: Taíno genes in D.R.
Dr. Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado, head of the Biology Department at UPR Mayagüez, and his team started conducted DNA studies on modern day Puerto Ricans in search of their past Indian heritage since 1999. In 2006, the team expanded its research to other parts of the Caribbean, including the neighboring Dominican Republic.
The results of the “Continental origins of the first populations of the Caribbean islands and the migratory movements which formed them. DNA in Dominican Republic,” were presented in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night by Martínez Cruzado and Dr. Fermín Mercedes de la Cruz, of the University UCE of San Pedro.
The research found that 15% of Dominicans have Taíno genes not found anywhere else. Another 15% has Euro-Asian genetic characteristics, whereas most of the Dominican population, 70%, has DNA of African origin, according to a report on the Dominican Today website.
Using a strand of hair and its root, Martínez Cruzado’s research zeroed in on mitochondrial DNA which is passed down intact from generation to generation strictly from the maternal side. Initially, the Puerto Rico study began in Maricao’s Indieras area, where a good number of people have specific indigenous-like traits. His studies revealed then that, in effect, the Indian heritage is there in Puerto Ricans, and it is more prevalent than had been expected.
With that in mind, Martínez and his team broadened the study to encompass the island. This time, testing cheek swab samples from 800 people chosen randomly throughout Puerto Rico (with or without Indian traits) his group found that 489 of them or 61% had, in effect, Indian DNA. What’s more, of 19 identified lineages, about 10 were traced to pre-Colombian Indians.
That suggests that Puerto Rico’s Taínos may have survived much longer than previously thought, and it could mean there was a much larger population of Taínos than has been thought to have existed.