Dental Morphology and Ancestry in Albuquerque, New Mexico Hispanics

Heather Edgar, Catherine M Willermet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term "Hispanic" groups people from Central and South America and the Caribbean, combining disparate cultures, languages, and ancestry, and masking biological differences. Historical and current admixture patterns within these populations and with indigenous and European-, African-, and/or Asian- derived populations complicate the biological picture. Although "Hispanic" has little biological meaning, it is used widely in epidemiology, disease management, and forensics as a biologically significant group. An interdisciplinary approach combining historical, cultural, and biological data can characterize regional and temporal differences between Hispanic populations. We examined biological distances with a population of central New Mexico Hispanics, as a case study of the local specificity of population history. We collected dental morphological trait frequencies from samples of recent Albuquerque-area Hispanic Americans and several ancestral and contemporary groups. To explore regional admixture patterns we calculated biological distances using the modified Mahalanobis D2 statistic. Our results indicate that Albuquerque Hispanics are more similar to their European and African ancestral groups than to Native Americans in New Mexico. Additionally, their affinity to Native Americans is greater with prehistoric rather than contemporary samples. We argue that these results reflect a local rather than pan-Hispanic admixture pattern; they underscore that populations are better understood at the local and regional levels. It is undesirable to make sweeping biological generalizations for groups known to be geographically and genetically disparate. This research is part of a growing trend in biological research concerning Hispanics and other groups-an emphasis on local samples, informed by historical, cultural, and biological factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-224
JournalHOMO: Journal of Comparative Human Biology
StatePublished - 2009


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