Review Article | Published:

The genetic legacy of the Quaternary ice ages

Nature volume 405, pages 907913 (22 June 2000) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Global climate has fluctuated greatly during the past three million years, leading to the recent major ice ages. An inescapable consequence for most living organisms is great changes in their distribution, which are expressed differently in boreal, temperate and tropical zones. Such range changes can be expected to have genetic consequences, and the advent of DNA technology provides most suitable markers to examine these. Several good data sets are now available, which provide tests of expectations, insights into species colonization and unexpected genetic subdivision and mixture of species. The genetic structure of human populations may be viewed in the same context. The present genetic structure of populations, species and communities has been mainly formed by Quaternary ice ages, and genetic, fossil and physical data combined can greatly help our understanding of how organisms were so affected.

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  1. School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

    • Godfrey Hewitt

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