August 11, 2005

Basque Y chromosomes

Very interesting new paper on Y chromosomal diversity disproving the idea that the Basques are an especially ancient population or somehow representative of the ancestral European gene pool. The following sentence should probably be framed by scientists trying to correlate the findings of modern population genetics with the historical-archaeological record:
An ad hoc mining of the historical record can lead to a spurious association of any finding in human population genetics with any historical episode that could potentially explain it.
European Journal of Human Genetics (advance online publication)

The place of the Basques in the European Y-chromosome diversity landscape

Santos Alonso et al.


There is a trend to consider the gene pool of the Basques as a 'living fossil' of the earliest modern humans that colonized Europe. To investigate this assumption, we have typed 45 binary markers and five short tandem repeat loci of the Y chromosome in a set of 168 male Basques. Results on these combined haplotypes were analyzed in the context of matching data belonging to approximately 3000 individuals from over 20 European, Near East and North African populations, which were compiled from the literature. Our results place the low Y-chromosome diversity of Basques within the European diversity landscape. This low diversity seems to be the result of a lower effective population size maintained through generations. At least some lineages of Y chromosome in modern Basques originated and have been evolving since pre-Neolithic times. However, the strong genetic drift experienced by the Basques does not allow us to consider Basques either the only or the best representatives of the ancestral European gene pool. Contrary to previous suggestions, we do not observe any particular link between Basques and Celtic populations beyond that provided by the Paleolithic ancestry common to European populations, nor we find evidence supporting Basques as the focus of major population expansions.


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