April 29, 2005

The impact of the Bantu in Africa

European Journal of Human Genetics (advance online publication)

Contrasting patterns of Y chromosome and mtDNA variation in Africa: evidence for sex-biased demographic processes

Elizabeth T Wood et al.

To investigate associations between genetic, linguistic, and geographic variation in Africa, we type 50 Y chromosome SNPs in 1122 individuals from 40 populations representing African geographic and linguistic diversity. We compare these patterns of variation with those that emerge from a similar analysis of published mtDNA HVS1 sequences from 1918 individuals from 39 African populations. For the Y chromosome, Mantel tests reveal a strong partial correlation between genetic and linguistic distances (r=0.33, P=0.001) and no correlation between genetic and geographic distances (r=-0.08, P>0.10). In contrast, mtDNA variation is weakly correlated with both language (r=0.16, P=0.046) and geography (r=0.17, P=0.035). AMOVA indicates that the amount of paternal among-group variation is much higher when populations are grouped by linguistics (ΦCT=0.21) than by geography (ΦCT=0.06). Levels of maternal genetic among-group variation are low for both linguistics and geography (ΦCT=0.03 and 0.04, respectively). When Bantu speakers are removed from these analyses, the correlation with linguistic variation disappears for the Y chromosome and strengthens for mtDNA. These data suggest that patterns of differentiation and gene flow in Africa have differed for men and women in the recent evolutionary past. We infer that sex-biased rates of admixture and/or language borrowing between expanding Bantu farmers and local hunter-gatherers played an important role in influencing patterns of genetic variation during the spread of African agriculture in the last 4000 years.


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