A new computer study of the Charlevoix Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean region in Quebec suggests that the first European pioneers in an area had a great impact on the make-up of the later population, leaving many more modern descendants than those who came later. Women on the Quebec frontier had 15 percent more children overall and 20 percent more children who married and had children than those who remained in more settled areas, and this impact persisted long enough to have an effect that lasted until modern times. Even today, most of the genes in the population were carried by people in the first generation of settlement. The study covered all the people who married in the district between 1686 and 1960, more than one million in all.
As the authors note, this might have major implications for human evolution. Mass movements into new, frontier zones have happened many times in human history. If those in the first wave gained a selective advantage (as this study shows was true in Quebec), this would have led to the spread of genes influencing things like boldness, restlessness, and curiosity that led people to move to the frontier.