London, Mar 22 : A new genetic study has shed light on the Latin American past, by finding that European colonisation of South America contributed to a major shift from a native American population to a largely mixed one.
The study pointed out that the mixed population owes its existence to male European settlers who mated with native and African women and killed the men.
Also, regions like Mexico City "still preserve the genetic heritage" as they had a large number of natives at the time of colonisation.
The study, conducted by an international team of researchers and led by Andres Luiz-Linares from University College London, included the examination of 249 unrelated individuals from 13 Mestizo populations (people from a mixed European/native American origin) in seven countries, ranging from Chile in the south to Mexico in the north.
"The history of Latin America has entailed a complex process of population mixture between natives and recent immigrants across a vast geographic region. Few details are known about this process or about how it shaped the genetic make-up of Latin American populations," BBC quoted the researchers, as stating.
It was discovered that European settlers, not only looted the natives and Africans of land and property, but also took away the women.
"There is a clear genetic signature.The initial mixing occurred predominately between immigrant and European men and native and African women," said Luiz-Linares.
According to him, the study indicated that this pattern was uniform all through Latin America.
"We see it in all the populations we examined, so it is clearly a historical fact that the ancestors of these populations can be traced to matings between immigrant men and native and African women," he said.
The study reported many variations within the genetic landscape of Latin America.
"The Mestizo with the highest native ancestry are in areas which historically have had relatively large native populations," said the researchers.
These areas include Andean regions and cities such as Mexico City, where major civilisations were already established before the arrival of Europeans in the late 15th Century.
"By contrast, the Mestizo with the highest European ancestry are from areas with relatively low pre-Columbian native population density and where the current native population is sparse," added the researchers.
Luiz-Linares also revealed about a bloody past while explaining the fate of native males when the Europeans arrived.
He said: "It is a very sad and terrible historical fact, they were basically annihilated. Not only did the European settlers take away land and property, they also took away the women and, as much as possible, they exterminated the men."
He noted that the findings of his study could help people change their perception of Latin American history.
"It is very important in terms of rescuing the past and recognising the roots of the population, and the living presence of natives within the current population," he explained.
The researchers said that not only will the study offer an insight into the past, the findings will also help shape studies aimed at identifying and analysing diseases.
The findings of this study are published in the journal Public Library of Science Genetics.