Biodiversity and genetic history of human populations

Present-day biodiversity and genetic variability of human populations derives from the complex interaction between demographic and evolutionary processes (mutation, migration, gene flow, genetic drift and natural selection) occurred at different time and spatial scales. Geographic patterns of genetic variation are informative of the past history and extents of admixture between populations. Our main research objective is the reconstruction of historical, evolutionary and demographic processes that shaped the present-day genetic variability.

Our research activities are focused on the analysis of population history and genetic variability in different human groups, by using accurate sampling strategies, wide-ranging genomic markers and up-to-date computational techniques.

The recent revolution in high-throughput genotyping and sequencing technologies, and the improvement in statistical and bio-informatic methods for exploring fine-scale patterns of admixture and population structure, have provided population genetics with new tools to infer deep population ancestry, dissect multiple genetic strata and make inferences about evolutionary processes. The maternal and paternal genetic ancestries are reconstructed by means of high-resolution analyses of uniparental markers (Y-chromosome and mitochondrial genomes); patterns of population structure and genetic admixture are explored through high-throughput whole genome autosomal (SNPs) data. Within this framework, a particular focus is dedicated to the study of the Italian genomic variation, both at micro-geographical scales as well as within the broader Euro-Mediterranean genetic context.

Research projects:

Population history and genetic structure of Italian populations with different degrees of isolation

Population history and genomic variability of Mediterranean populations

Research projects funded by the National Geographic Society - Genographic Project 2.0 Scientific Grants Program:

A Mediterranean melting pot. Excavating genetic strata in Sicily and Southern Italy

A focused strategy to unveil the genetic affinities of the Italians