Variation in dental morphology and inference of continental ancestry in admixed Latin Americans

Delgado, Miguel; Ramírez, Luis Miguel; Adhikari, Kaustubh; Fuentes-Guajardo, Macarena; Zanolli, Clément; Gonzalez-José, Rolando; Canizales, Samuel; Bortolini, Maria-Catira; Poletti, Giovanni; Gallo, Carla; Rothhammer, Francisco; Bedoya, Gabriel and Ruiz-Linares, Andres (2019). Variation in dental morphology and inference of continental ancestry in admixed Latin Americans. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 168(3) pp. 438–447.



Objectives: To investigate the variation in dental nonmetric traits and to evaluate the utility of this variation for inferring genetic ancestry proportions in a sample of admixed Latin Americans.
Materials and Methods: We characterized a sample from Colombia (N = 477) for 34 dental traits and obtained estimates of individual Native American, European, and African ancestry using genome‐wide SNP data. We tested for correlation between dental traits, genetic ancestry, age, and sex. We carried out a biodistance analysis between the Colombian sample and reference continental population samples using the mean measure of divergence statistic calculated from dental trait frequencies. We evaluated the inference of genetic ancestry from dental traits using a regression approach (with 10‐fold cross‐validation) as well as by testing the correlation between estimates of ancestry obtained from genetic and dental data.
Results: Latin Americans show intermediate dental trait frequencies when compared to Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans. Significant correlations were observed for several dental traits, genetic ancestry, age, and sex. The biodistance analysis displayed a closer relationship of Colombians to Europeans than to Native Americans and Africans. Mean ancestry estimates obtained from the dental data are similar to the genetic estimates (Native American: 32% vs. 28%, European: 59% vs. 63%, and African: 9% vs. 9%, respectively). However, dental features provided low predictive power for genetic ancestry of individuals in both approaches tested (R2 < 5% for all genetic ancestries across methods).
Discussion: The frequency of dental traits in Latin Americans reflects their admixed Native American, European and African ancestry and can provide reasonable average estimates of genetic ancestry. However, the accuracy of individual genetic ancestry estimates is relatively low, probably influenced by the continental differentiation of dental traits, their genetic architecture, and the distribution of genetic ancestry in the individuals examined.

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