Dr Rita Rasteiro

Honorary Visiting Fellow, Department of Genetics, UoL

Telephone: +44 (0) 116 223 1235

Email: rr147 at le.ac.uk

Office: Attenborough 704





Migration has always influenced the population of the British Isles. Since the late Iron Age there have been several phases of migration from different parts of mainland Europe. But the impact of each ‘population’ on the modern British gene pool is still subject to much debate in academic literature and popular culture. This project uses genetic data and computer simulation to explore the consequences of past migrations and the influence of social structure and different cultural practices on today’s patterns of human genetic diversity in the British Isles.


The Modelling Migrations project

The past demographic history of the British Isles is an interesting topic of research in human population genetics. Since late Iron Age, these islands suffered the influx of several migration waves from different parts of mainland Europe. Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans had different influences on the making of Britain. However, the impact of each population on the modern British gene pool is still subject to much debate.

This controversy clearly suggests that more work is needed to improve our understanding of the processes that took place during these migrations on the genetic making of Britain. It is in this context that this work is situated and I propose to use Population Genetics and model-based approaches to:

  • Study the British Isles Diasporas, using genetic data collected from different databases and published datasets;
  • Model the consequences of the several migration waves, using both non-recombining systems (like Y-chromosome and mtDNA), as well as nuclear DNA;
  • Ascertain if different patterns of genetic differentiation and diversity are encountered between mtDNA and Y-chromosome data. Infer if these differences are due to different demographic histories for both females and males.
  • Identify possible geographical specificities that might help us to understand the impact of different immigration movements on different regions of the British Isles.


Past Research

During my PhD thesis, my research focused specifically on understanding how a major demographic event in Human Prehistory, such as the Neolithic transition, has shaped the genetic diversity and structure of human populations. The Neolithic transition, during which farming-based societies spread and replaced hunter-gatherer societies, took place independently over a few millennia in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. However, the way genetic data are interpreted to understand this process is controversial. The aim of my project was to use admixture models of increasing complexity and genetic data to identify geographical specificities, when possible, which might help us understand the introduction of farming.



  • Anthropology (specialization in Biological Anthropology), University of Coimbra, Portugal.
  • Master in Human Evolution, University of Coimbra, Portugal.
  • PhD in Biology (Population Genetics), under the supervision of Lounès Chikhi. Internal IGC doctoral program (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal).



  • Jobling MA, Rasteiro R, and Wetton J (2016). In the blood: the myth and reality of genetic markers of identity. Ethnic and Racial Studies Special Issue: Markers of Identity, 39: 142–161. doi:10.1080/01419870.2016.1105990
  • Ottoni C, Rasteiro R, Willet R, Claeys J, Talloen P, Van de Vijver K, Yaka R, Poblome J, Chikhi L Decorte R (2016). Contrasting maternal genetic variation across two millennia reveals demographic history of an ancient human population in Southwest Turkey. Royal Society Open Science 3: 150250. doi:10.1098/rsos.150250
  • Rasteiro R (2015), DNA and Past Migrations: storytelling or story testing?. In The Impact of Diasporas, eds. R Cohen and J Story (Oxford Diasporas Programme, University of Oxford and The Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain, University of Leicester), pp. 76-80. Keepsake for The Impact of Diasporas event held at the Royal Geographic Society. ISBN:9781907271076
  • Arenas M, Mona S, Trochet A, Sramkova Hanulova A, Currat M, Ray N, Chikhi L, Rasteiro R,Schmeller DS and Excoffier L (2013). The scaling of genetic diversity in a changing and fragmented world. In "Scaling in ecology and conservation”. Eds., Henle K et al. Pensoft Publishers., pp. 55-60.doi:10.3897/ab.e1169
  • Rasteiro R and Chikhi L (2013). Female and Male Perspectives on the Neolithic Transition: clues from ancient and modern genetic data. PLoS ONE, 8: e60944. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060944
  • Gamba C, Fernández E, Tirado M, Deguilloux M-F, Pemonge M-H, Utrilla P, Edo M, Molist M, Rasteiro R, Chikhi L and Arroyo-Pardo E (2011). Ancient DNA from an Early Iberian Neolithic population support a pioneer collonization by first farmers. Molecular Ecology 21: 45–56. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05361.x
  • Rasteiro R, Bouttier P-A, Sousa VC and Chikhi L (2012). Investigating sex-biased migration during the Neolithic transition in Europe, using an explicit spatial simulation framework, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279: 2409-2416. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2323
  • Rasteiro R and Chikhi L (2009), Revisiting the peopling of Japan: an admixture approach, Journal of Human Genetics, 54: 349–354. doi:10.1038/jhg.2009.39
  • Rasteiro R and Pereira-Leal JB (2007), Multiple domain insertions and losses in the evolution of the Rab prenylation complex, BMC Evolutionary Biology, 7:140. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-140

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