March 01, 2011

Scarcity of lactase persistence in medieval Hungarians

The interesting finding of this paper is not so much the fact that conquering Magyars (who came from the east) lacked the common European allele for lactase persistence, but rather that the common folk largely did as well: there were only two individuals homozygous for the derived (persistent) allele, and one heterozygous one.

This is quite unexpected, as present-day Hungarians have noticeable lactase persistence (pdf; Yuval Itan et al., A worldwide correlation of lactase persistence phenotype and genotypes). The origin of lactase persistence in Europeans had been dated to no earlier than the onset of the Neolithic, as it was absent in early Neolithic Central Europeans, as well as northern European hunter-gatherers.

A scenario in which most of the selection for LP occurred over the last millennium is quite difficult to believe, and this would imply that there was an influx of LP-folk into the Hungarian population to account for its present-day frequency. We urgently need data on other contemporaneous European population to determine whether they had LP frequencies similar to the present-day ones or not.

My guess is that these 10th-11th century Hungarians comprised, in accordance to what physical anthropology suggests, a mix of Mongoloid and Caucasoid types of eastern origin, both of which are expected to be low on LP, while present-day Hungarians are largely descended from pre- and post-Hungarian Central European Caucasoids who possessed the regular (for central Europeans) high LP frequency.


Am J Phys Anthropol DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21490

Comparison of lactase persistence polymorphism in ancient and present-day Hungarian populations

Dóra Nagy et al.

The prevalence of adult-type hypolactasia varies ethnically and geographically among populations. A C/T–13910 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) upstream of the lactase gene is known to be associated with lactase non-persistence in Europeans. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of lactase persistent and non-persistent genotypes in current Hungarian-speaking populations and in ancient bone samples of classical conquerors and commoners from the 10th–11th centuries from the Carpathian basin; 181 present-day Hungarian, 65 present-day Sekler, and 23 ancient samples were successfully genotyped for the C/T-13910 SNP by the dCAPS PCR-RFLP method. Additional mitochondrial DNA testing was also carried out. In ancient Hungarians, the T-13910 allele was present only in 11% of the population, and exclusively in commoners of European mitochondrial haplogroups who may have been of pre-Hungarian indigenous ancestry. This is despite animal domestication and dairy products having been introduced into the Carpathian basin early in the Neolithic Age. This anomaly may be explained by the Hungarian use of fermented milk products, their greater consumption of ruminant meat than milk, cultural differences, or by their having other lactase-regulating genetic polymorphisms than C/T-13910. The low prevalence of lactase persistence provides additional information on the Asian origin of Hungarians. Present-day Hungarians have been assimilated with the surrounding European populations, since they do not differ significantly from the neighboring populations in their possession of mtDNA and C/T-13910 variants.

Link

15 comments:

andrew said...

The most likely culprit from Wikipedia on the History of Hungary would be as follows:

"As a consequence of the constant warfare between Hungarians and Ottoman Turks, population growth was stunted and the network of medieval settlements with their urbanized bourgeois inhabitants perished. The 150 years of Turkish wars [roughly 1526 CE to 1699 CE] fundamentally changed the ethnic composition of Hungary. As a result of demographic losses including deportations and massacres, the number of ethnic Hungarians in existence at the end of the Turkish period was substantially diminished.", citing Csepeli, Gyorgy (1996). "The changing facets of Hungarian nationalism - Nationalism Reexamined". Social Research. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2267/is_n1_v63/ai_18501094/.

It isn't a part of history that I'm all that familiar with, but nothing else seems to explain the discontinuity as well.

ashraf said...

"My guess is that these 10th-11th century Hungarians comprised, in accordance to what physical anthropology suggests, a mix of Mongoloid and Caucasoid types of eastern origin, both of which are expected to be low on LP, while present-day Hungarians are largely descended from pre- and post-Hungarian Central European Caucasoids who possessed the regular (for central Europeans) high LP frequency."

Indeed the newcomer Magyars were (as expected from nomad populations)low numbering warrior nomads most of them died in wars against ottomans(resulted in a drastical decrease of the N hg amount of those uralic magyars) while the well more numerous rural folk were caucasoid slav/german european but since rural folk by that time usually did not leave written accounts we only know about that this same rural folk shifting to the language of the military uralic speaking rulers minority=>language shift with very weak magyar admixture (probably no more than 5% mongoloid admixture).

eurologist said...

The simplest explanation is that the fraction of "classical conquerors" of the total population was much smaller than the (rather arbitrarily collected) ancient bone samples suggest.

On top of that, many Avars where driven out of the region that constitutes present-day Hungary.

It seems pretty clear that today, genetically, Hungarians are largely typical Central Europeans - in most PC maps, Germans are as close to them as they are to Swedes or Swiss, for example. So the simplest explanation is that the invading Uralic people and Avars had little genetic impact, after all.

NickMGombash said...

This was interesting, considering that my father, sister and myself are all lactose-intolerant. We are of Hungarian ancestry. I had my DNA tested a bit ago for genealogy purposes. Let me know if it would be useful to you in anyway.
Nick
nickmgombash@yahoo.com
www.hungaryexchange.com

sykes.1 said...

Why is recent selection for LP hard to believe? Certainly, the Neolithic revolution has a major change in the human environment and must have had strong selective pressures on populations passing through. I think it is likely that human evolution is currently proceeding more rapidly than at any time in our past.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

"Why is recent selection for LP hard to believe?"

Because adult death from starvation or adult disease vulnerablity as a result of malnutrition (prior to having children) from not being able to drink cow's milk (which is the means by which LP gets its selective advantage), has not had a well known demographic impact in the last 1000 years in Europe.

The only really widely known demographic impact in that period was the Black Plague - which is not known for having ravaged LP populations less severely than non-LP populations (indeed, if anything, the reverse was true - Black Plague burned itself out by the time it reached most of the European fringes where non-LP populations were located).

Even in the case of Hungary, where I suggest a cause for demographic change, the LP of the new population is essentially accidental and this trait did not play a very strong or direct causal role in their replacement of the prior non-LP population.

Fanty said...

For modern Hungarians relationship, I just recently saw a Genetic distance table wich claims this (Davidski linked to that one in his blog):

1. Austrians (1.04)
2. Czechians (1.06)
3. South Germans (1.08)
4. Bulgaria (1.10) --- only Balkan country in the table
5. North Germans (1.11)
6. White Utahns (1.13)
7. Poles (1.14)
8. France (1.16)
8. Switzerland (1.16)
9. Swedes (1.22)
10. Russians (1.28)
11. Spanish (1.32)
12. Estonia (1.41)
13. Northern Italians (1.42)
14. Lithuanians (1.46)
15. Latvians (1.58)
16. Southern Italians (1.63)
17. Finland (Helsinki) (1.87)
18. Finland (Kuusamo) (2.68)

eurologist said...

Yes, Fanty - this is very typical. Despite their significant Slavic contribution, Czechs lead Austrians in being closest to Hungarians, folowed by Southern Germans (Slovenia and Croatia are right there, of course, too).

DagoRed said...

What about Bulgaria? It seems to show a link with Avars or others central asian people.
Aren't Romanians in the samples?

Fanty said...

"What about Bulgaria? It seems to show a link with Avars or others central asian people.
Aren't Romanians in the samples?"

No Romanians are not in the samples.
The 18 populations in the list I posted are the only ones, that are in it. It however claims to have minimum of 100 people for each of these populations.

From the Bulgarian point of view that looks like this (And I think I would have not expected this):

1. Hungary (1.10)
2. Switzerland (1.13) .... Errr...
3. Austria (1.14)
4. Southern Germany (1.19)
5. Czechians (1.21)
6. French (1.22)
7. Poles (1.29)
7. White Utahns (1.29)
.....
Russians (1.47)

Uh. Hmm.
Lets check Poles:

1. Czechians (1.09)
2. Hungarians (1.14)
3. Estonians (1.17) ... huh!
4. Russians (1.18)
4. North Germans (1.18)
5. Austrians (1.19)
6. Lithuanians (1.20)
7. South Germans (1.23)
8. Latvians (1.26)
9. White Utahns (1.28)
10. Bulgars (1.29)

Hmmmmm

Strat said...

"And I think I would have not expected this"

There is nothing surprising. Geography explains these results pretty well. Also the genetic distances between these countries are small.

Fanty said...

I still think that 1.14 between Switzerland and Bulgaria is somewhat estonishing to me.

Specilly, since the distance between Southgermans and Swiss is 1.17

The Distance between Northgermans and Swiss even 1.36

This suggests, Bulgars beeng closer to Swiss than Germans are.

Same for France. Northgermans to France: 1.25
Southgermans to France: 1.12

Bulgars to France: 1.22

That makes Bulgars closer to French than North Germans are.

Dienekes said...

I still think that 1.14 between Switzerland and Bulgaria is somewhat estonishing to me.

If you are going to discuss data, please give a source for them.

Stears666 said...

I don't think that conquering Hungarians , who were a tyny minority in present-day Hungary (who were the so called turkish Onugor people) were really Magyars or they could speak the ancestor of present-day Hungarian language. These onugors speak a variation of turkish language instead of Hungarian a (finno-ugric language)
The tombs and remains of conqueror Onugors (Hungarians) are considered as archeological rarity amongst the findings of 9th-10th century findings. However present-day Magyar (finno-ugric) language was always different than the original (turkish) Hungarian language .



After the end of Ottoman occupation (1699) The wast majority of the little/present-day Hungary remained Hungarian, and spoke Hungarian. (ue to the fact that Ethnic Hungarian populations of Transylvania and Upper-Hungary (present-day Slovakia) were transported to the territory, where the Ottomans depopulated the are.

Grey said...

Hungary imported a lot of Germans in the middle ages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transylvanian_Saxons

"The Transylvanian Saxons are a people of German ethnicity who settled in Transylvania from the 12th century onwards."