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Signatures of the pre-agricultural peopling processes in sub-Saharan Africa as revealed by the phylogeography of early Y chromosome lineages

AuthorsBatini, Chiara ; Ferri, Gianmarco; Destro-Bisol, Giovanni; Brisighell, Francesca; Luiselli, Donata; Sánchez-Diz, Paula; Rocha, Jorge; Simonson, Tatum; Brehm, Antonio; Montano, Valeria; Eldin Elwali, Nasr; Spedini, Gabriella; D'Amato, María Eugenia; Myres, Natalie; Ebbesen, Peter; Comas, David ; Capelli, Cristian
KeywordsY chromosome
Homo sapiens
Sub-Saharan Africa
Issue Date4-Apr-2011
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationMolecular Biology and Evolution 28 (9) : 2603-2613 (2011)
AbstractThe study of Y chromosome variation has helped reconstruct demographic events associated with the spread of languages, agriculture and pastoralism in sub-Saharan Africa, but little attention has been given to the early history of the continent. In order to overcome this lack of knowledge, we carried out a phylogeographic analysis of haplogroups A and B in a broad dataset of sub-Saharan populations. These two lineages are particularly suitable for this objective because they are the two most deeply rooted branches of the Y chromosome genealogy. Their distribution is almost exclusively restricted to sub-Saharan Africa where their frequency peaks at 65% in groups of foragers. The combined high resolution SNP analysis with STR variation of their sub-clades reveals strong geographic and population structure for both haplogroups.
This has allowed us to identify specific lineages related to regional pre-agricultural dynamics in different areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, we observed signatures of relatively recent contact, both among Pygmies, and between them and Khoisan speaker groups from southern Africa, thus contributing to the understanding of the complex evolutionary relationships among African hunter-gatherers. Finally, by revising the phylogeography of the very early human Y chromosome lineages, we have obtained support for the role of southern Africa as a sink, rather than a source, of the first migrations of modern humans from eastern and central parts of the continent. These results open new perspectives on the early history of Homo sapiens in Africa, with particular attention to areas of the continent where human fossil remains and archaeological data are scant.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msr089
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