Christina Marie Balentine
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationTexas, Austin, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10095
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleBalentine, Christina (Texas, Austin, U. of) "Investigating adaptation in ancient and contemporary Indigenous peoples of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego"
CHRISTINA BALLENTINE, then a graduate student at University of Texas, Austin, Texas, was awarded a grant in April 2021 to aid research on “Investigating adaptation in ancient and contemporary Indigenous peoples of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego,” supervised by Dr. Melissa E. Kemp. Humans thrive in diverse and extreme environments thanks to both biological and sociocultural mechanisms, including natural selection, demographic processes, and cultural innovations. However, significant gaps remain in our understanding of each of these processes and how they contribute, individually and collectively, to human flourishing in extreme environments. This project took a novel biocultural approach to studying the population histories of ancient peoples from Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego (Fuego-Patagonia). We collected ancient DNA and radiocarbon data from ancient Fuegian-Patagonians, which were used in analyses of adaptation to the cold climate and novel diseases brought during Western colonization, as well as in analyses of demographic histories. We did not identify signals of adaptation in Fuegian Patagonians, likely due to lack of natural selection acting at the genes studied. We found that the demographic histories of ancient Fuegian-Patagonians were complex, with different hunter-gatherer groups having distinct ancestries. We contextualized the genomic results with archaeological, ethnohistoric, and linguistic evidence. These sociocultural data lend support to our genomic findings, and highlight the complexities of local population histories. This research illustrates the myriad ways in which genomic and sociocultural data can be integrated to develop a more complete and nuanced picture of human biological variation.