Genetic structure of Flores island (Azores, Portugal) in the 19th century and in the present day: evidence from surname analysis.
The island of Flores is the most westerly of the Azores archipelago (Portugal). Despite its marked geographic isolation and reduced population size, biodemographic and genetic studies conducted so far do not support the idea that its population constitutes a genetic isolate. In this study we conducted a surname analysis of the Flores population for two time periods: the second half of the 19th century and the present day. Our main purposes were (1) to biodemographically and genetically characterize the island, taking into account the strong reduction in population observed from the middle of the 19th century to the present day; and (2) to analyze the influence that the effective population size and geographic distance have on the genetic structure of populations. For both periods analyzed, all indicators of diversity revealed a high level of surname diversity. Our results are in accordance with the diversity estimates obtained from both monoparental genetic markers located in the Y chromosome and frequencies of mtDNA haplogroups. Contrary to what could be expected, considering the strong reduction of population in the last 150 years, we observed that diversity was maintained and that microdifferentiation decreased. Both observations support a higher openness of parishes as a consequence of the increase in communication routes. From the first to the second period analyzed, a change in surname composition is evident, although the more frequent surnames in Flores are almost the same for both periods and some of them are reported to be surnames present in the first settlers of Flores. This result testifies to the impact of founders on the present-day gene pool of Flores island and allows us to infer that the genetic characterization of the present-day population of Flores could provide reliable information about the history of the peopling of the Azores.
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