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New Publication: Isthmus of Isolation

Panama Viejo Mandible PV-14 P
Mandible from Panama Viejo lacking dentition due to genetic disorder. Photo by Leslie Naranjo.

Bioanthropologist Nicole Smith-Guzmán has a new publication, “An isthmus of isolation: The likely elevated prevalence of genetic disease in ancient Panama and implications for considering rare diseases in paleopathology”, now available in the International Journal of Paleopathology‘s special issue on ancient rare disease. Nicole’s research examines the unusually high proportion of genetic diseases that appear on human remains from pre-Columbian Panamanian sites. Among these ailments include supernumerary (extra) teeth, reduced numbers of teeth, fused vertebrae and ribs, and bent limbs. Some diseases can result from one or more different causes, and Nicole examines each case and compares these with known genetic disorders today. Ultimately, many diseases are the result of recessive disorders that occur when there is low population genetic diversity. This suggests that many pre-Columbian populations in Panama may have been genetically isolated, and that Panama was not an active “bridge” between the Americas where people regularly moved back and forth.

The original article (which is Open Access) can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2021.01.002

Smith-Guzmán, Nicole E. 2021 An isthmus of isolation: The likely elevated prevalence of genetic disease in ancient Panama and implications for considering rare diseases in paleopathology. International Journal of Paleopathology 33:1–12.