The total genetic diversity of the Amerindian population is as high as that observed for other continental human populations because a large contribution from variation among tribes makes up for the low variation within tribes. This is attributed mainly to genetic drift acting on small isolated populations. However, a small founder population with a low genetic diversity is another factor that may contribute to the low intratribal diversity. Small founder populations seem to be a frequent event in the formation of new tribes among the Amerindians, but this event is usually not well recorded. In this paper, we analyze the genetic diversity of the Arara of Laranjal village and the Arara of Iriri village, with respect to seven tandem repeat autosomic segments (D1S80, ApoB, D4S43, vW1, vW2, F13A1 and D12S67), two Y-chromosome-specific polymorphisms (DYS19 and DYS199), and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers (restriction fragment length polymorphisms and sequencing of a segment of the D loop region). The occurrence of a single Y chromosome and mtDNA haplotype, and only 1–4 alleles of the autosomic loci investigated, corroborates historic and demographic records that the Arara of Iriri were founded by a single couple of siblings who came from the Arara of Laranjal, the largest group. Notwithstanding this fact, the genetic distance and the molecular variance between the two Arara villages were greater than those observed between them and other Amazonian tribes, suggesting that the microevolutionary process among Brazilian Amerindians may be misinterpreted if historic demographic data are not considered.

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