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Research Fellows Directory

Maria Pala

Dr Maria Pala

Research Fellow


University of Leeds

Research summary

Modern humans show considerable physical and cultural variation. All these differences are de facto the product of our past history, a history made by people like us that, at various times, dispersed across the world, sometimes pushed by dramatic environmental or social changes but perhaps at other times simply driven by “insatiable curiosity and new-found creativity” [Mithen, S. 2003. p 506]. To reconstruct that past is therefore crucial in order to better understand our present and sometimes to even anticipate our future. To this end the analysis of modern DNA, in particular of uniparental genetic systems, such as the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), represents an especially valuable tool because embedded in the DNA sequence is a memory of our ancestors, and analysis of the sequence can revive that memory. In particular the analysis of mitochondrial variability in modern human populations allows us to reconstruct the female lines of descent and compare the distributions of lineages from one region to another, in order to estimate the timing of migrations between them. This approach is known as phylogeography.

The goal of my project is to use this approach to analyze macro-haplogroup R0 and its two main sub-lineages, the minor R0a and the major HV, with particular focus on the principal HV sub-lineage, haplogroup H. Haplogroup H has been implicated in expansions within Europe after the last Ice Age, but despite the fact that it is the commonest mtDNA lineage across Europe, being found in almost half of all Europeans, the details of its history, and especially its origins in the Near East and early movements into Europe, remain enigmatic. My aim is to contribute to a reconstruction of the population history of Europe and the Near East that will be of interest to a wide range of audiences, from archaeologists and linguists to evolutionary geneticists and indeed anyone who is interested in human ancestry.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Origins and expansion of mitochondrial DNA haplogroup HV and the modern human settlement of West Eur

Scheme: Newton International Fellowships

Dates: Sep 2009 - Aug 2011

Value: £101,000