Genetics of isolated human populations

Human population isolates can be defined as those groups of people derived from a small number of individuals who became isolated because of a founding event (e.g. new settlement, famine, war, environmental disruption, epidemics, and socio-cultural barriers) and remained secluded for several generations. This resulting geographical and/or cultural isolation has genetic consequences, resulting in reduced genetic complexity and a unique genetic ancestry for these populations. These populations tend to share a common lifestyle including diet, physical activity and other cultural habits and are therefore are exposed to similar environmental conditions making them important for understanding the origins of genetic variation impacting human populations.

Our current research focuses on the microevolutionary forces that impact on indigenous populations inhabiting southern Central America (Honduras to Panama) and the impact of migration on population structure in Anabaptist populations, specifically Mennonites from the American Midwest.


This research involves collaboration with researchers in the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras.


This research is funded through the National Geographic Genographic Project, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Royal Perth Medical Research Foundation.

Selected publications

  • Mosher, M. J., P. Melton, P. Stapleton, M. S. Schanfield and M. H. Crawford (2016). “Patterns of DNA methylation across the leptin core promoter in four diverse Asian and north American populations.” Human Biology 88(2): 121-135. [pubmed]
  • Beaty, K. G., M. J. Mosher, M. H. Crawford and P/ Melton (2016). “Paternal Genetic Structure in Contemporary Mennonite Communities from the American Midwest.” Hum Biol 88(2): 95-108. [pubmed]
  • Melton, P. E., N. F. Baldi, R. Barrantes and M. H. Crawford (2013). “Microevolution, migration, and the population structure of five Amerindian populations from Nicaragua and Costa Rica.” Am J Hum Biol 25(4): 480-490. [pubmed]
  • Melton, P. E. (2012). Mennonite migrations: genetic and demographic consequences. Causes and Consequences of Human Migration. (eds D. C. Crawford, B. Campbell), United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press. [pubmed]
  • Kumar, S., C. Bellis, M. Zlojutro, P. E. Melton, J. Blangero and J. E. Curran (2011). “Large scale mitochondrial sequencing in Mexican Americans suggests a reappraisal of Native American origins.” BMC Evol Biol 11: 293. [pubmed]
  • Melton, P. E., M. J. Mosher, R. Rubicz, M. Zlojutro and M. H. Crawford (2010). “Mitochondrial DNA diversity in Mennonite communities from the midwestern United States.” Hum Biol 82(3): 267-289. [pubmed]
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