Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Biology



Major Advisor

Greg Hampikian, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Stephen J. Novak, Ph.D.


The Basques are an ancient people, considered by many anthropologists to represent the oldest extant European population. Because of this, they have been the subject of numerous sociological and biological investigations. The Basque Diaspora, a relatively recent demographic expansion of the Basque population, has until now been overlooked in molecular genetic studies. Samples were taken from 53 individuals with Basque ancestry in Boise, Idaho, and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation of the first and second hypervariable regions were determined. Thirty-six mtDNA haplotypes were detected in the sample. Comparing the genetic diversity in the Idaho sample with other Basque populations, signatures of founder effects were observed, consistent with both the recent and ancient history of Basque mitochondrial lineages. There has been a marked alteration of haplogroup frequency and diversity, and there is a slight reduction in other measures of diversity in the immigrant Basque population sampled compared to the native Basque population. I have found a relatively high percentage of the Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS) haplotype for hypervariable regions I and II, which is absent in previous studies of Basque mtDNA, and rare in other Spanish populations. The amount of nucleotide diversity is consistent with a sample that is predominantly haplogroup H, which is especially common in the Basque regions of Europe, due to ancient migrations and expansions out of glacial refugia. This is the first report of mtDNA diversity in an immigrant Basque population, and I find that the diversity in Basques of the Northwestern U.S.A. can be explained by the recent history of migration, as well as the phylogeography and diversity of the major European haplogroups.