Document Type

Journal Article

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Publication Source

Nature Communications



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The search for a method that utilizes biological information to predict humans’ place of origin has occupied scientists for millennia. Over the past four decades, scientists have employed genetic data in an effort to achieve this goal but with limited success. While biogeographical algorithms using next-generation sequencing data have achieved an accuracy of 700 km in Europe, they were inaccurate elsewhere. Here we describe the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) algorithm and demonstrate its accuracy with three data sets using 40,000–130,000 SNPs. GPS placed 83% of worldwide individuals in their country of origin. Applied to over 200 Sardinians villagers, GPS placed a quarter of them in their villages and most of the rest within 50 km of their villages. GPS’s accuracy and power to infer the biogeography of worldwide individuals down to their country or, in some cases, village, of origin, underscores the promise of admixture-based methods for biogeography and has ramifications for genetic ancestry testing.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


The full list of Genographic Consortium members can be found in the Consortia.


geographic population structure, biological science

Additional Files

Supplementary Figures, Tables, Note and Reference.pdf (469 kB)
Supplementary Figures 1-3, Supplementary Tables 1-5, Supplementary Note 1 and Supplementary References

Supplementary Data 1.xlsx (34 kB)
Predicted population and distance from true origin for 627 HGDP samples



Date Posted: 18 December 2014

This document has been peer reviewed.