Admixture has obscured signals of historical hard sweeps in humans

Yassine Souilmi, Raymond Tobler, Angad Johar, Matthew Williams, Shane T. Grey, Joshua Schmidt, João C. Teixeira, Adam Rohrlach, Jonathan Tuke, Olivia Johnson, Graham Gower, Chris Turney, Murray Cox, Alan Cooper, Christian D. Huber

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The role of natural selection in shaping biological diversity is an area of intense interest in modern biology. To date, studies of positive selection have primarily relied on genomic datasets from contemporary populations, which are susceptible to confounding factors associated with complex and often unknown aspects of population history. In particular, admixture between diverged populations can distort or hide prior selection events in modern genomes, though this process is not explicitly accounted for in most selection studies despite its apparent ubiquity in humans and other species. Through analyses of ancient and modern human genomes, we show that previously reported Holocene-era admixture has masked more than 50 historic hard sweeps in modern European genomes. Our results imply that this canonical mode of selection has probably been underappreciated in the evolutionary history of humans and suggest that our current understanding of the tempo and mode of selection in natural populations may be inaccurate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2003–2015
Number of pages13
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number12
Early online date31 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Molecular evolution
  • Population genetics


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