UPDATE I: Here is the table of haplogroup frequencies for easy reference:
There is also a wide assortment of Q and R in Iran. While some of these may be intrusive (e.g., the 42.6% of Q1a2 in Turkmen, likely a legacy of their Central Asian origins), the overall picture appears consistent with a deep presence of these lineages in Iran. This is especially true for haplogroup R where pretty much every paragroup and derived group is present, excepting those likely to have originated recently elsewhere.
Although accounting only for 25% of the total variance, the first two components (Figure 3) separate populations according to their geographic and ethnic origin and define five main clusters: East-African, North-African and Near Eastern Arab, European, Near Eastern and South Asian. The 1stPC clearly distinguishes the East African groups (showing a high frequency of haplogroup E) from all the others which distribute longitudinally along the axis with a wide overlapping between European and Arab peoples and between Near Eastern and South Asian groups. The 2ndPC separates the North-African and Near Eastern Arabs (characterized by the highest frequency of haplogroup J1) from Europeans (characterized by haplogroups I, R1a and R1b) and the Near Easterners from the South Asians (due to the distribution of haplogroups G, R2 and L). Iranian groups do not cluster all together, occupying intermediate positions among Arab, Near Eastern and Asian clusters. In this scenario, it is worth of noticing the position of three Iranian groups: (i) Khuzestan Arabs (KHU-Ar) who, despite their Arabic origin, are close to the Iranian samples; (ii) Armenians from Tehran (THE-Ar), whose position, in the upper part of the Iranian distribution, indicates a close affinity with the Near Eastern cluster, while their position near Turkey and Caucasus groups, due to the high frequency R1b-M269 and other European markers (eg: I-M170), is in agreement with their Armenia origin; (iii) Sistan Baluchestan (SB-Ba) that clusters with its neighbouring Pakistan.UPDATE III: There are lots of little details in the haplogroup distribution that make historical sense. For example, C3 exists in Assyrians from Azarbaijan, and both C*, C3, and O exists in Zoroastrians from Yazd. It is often forgotten that before the spread of Islam, and quite time thereafter, Inner Asia was teeming with Zoroastrians and Nestorian Christians. It seems quite likely that these outliers represent a legacy of these communities.
UPDATE IV: I have a feeling that Razib will take exception with this statement: "Ancient Persian people were firstly characterized by the Zoroastrianism. After the Islamization, Shi'a became the main doctrine of all Iranian people."
UPDATE V: This confirms my observation from the recent studies in Afghanistan, that there is an inverse relationship of J2a and R1a in Iranian-speaking groups, with an excess of the latter among the eastern Iranians, and of the former among the Persians. From the paper:
Among the different J2a haplogroups, J2a-M530  is the most informative as for ancient dispersal events from the Iranian region. This lineage probably originated in Iran where it displays its highest frequency and variance in Yazd and Mazandaran (Figure 2). Taking into account its microsatellite variation and age estimates along its distribution area (Tables S3 and S7), it is likely that its diffusion could have been triggered by the Euroasiatic climatic amelioration after the Last Glacial Maximum and later increased by agriculture spread from Turkey and Caucasus towards southern Europe. The high variance observed in the Italian Peninsula is probably the result of stratifications of subsequent migrations and/or of the presence of sub-lineages not yet identified. Of interest in the M530 network (Figures 2 and S3) is the presence of a lateral branch that is characterized by a DYS391 repeat number equal to 9. Differently from previous observations , this branch is not restricted to Anatolian Greek samples being shared with different eastern Mediterranean coastal populations. The M530 diffusion pattern seems to be also shared by the paragroups J2a-M410* and J2a-PAGE55*. In addition, the variance distribution of the rare R1b-M269* Y chromosomes, displaying decreasing values from Iran, Anatolia and the western Black Sea coastal region, is also suggestive of a westward diffusion from the Iranian plateau, although more complex scenarios can be still envisioned because of its non-star like structure.It seems much more probably that J2 related lineages spread from the highlands of West Asia much later.
The "age estimates" are the result of using the inappropriate "evolutionary mutation rate", and become even older because of the inclusion of the DYS388 marker that is very stable in many haplogroups but very mutable within haplogroup J. On the left you can see frequency, Y-STR variance, and haplotype network structures for various J-related groups.
It is unfortunate that there is no progress in the phylogeographic assessment of R1a in this paper. There have been substantial discoveries of SNPs within this haplogroup as a result of commercial testing; however there is clearly an ascertainment bias in the newer discoveries, as almost all these SNPs have been detected in Europeans. The new paper confirms the high levels of Y-STR variance in India, Pakistan, and Iran. Together with the cornucopia of related paragroups in Iran, there is little doubt that this haplogroup originated in the general area of Central/South Asia.
Personally, as I have stated before, I would relate this R1a with Neolithic peoples living east of the Caspian, in contrast to the R1b bearers who lived west and south of it. These two populations came under the influence of the Indo-Europeans and spread in different directions. The Indo-Iranians were then initially the mixed descendants of the Indo-Europeans and the R1a old agricultural population, and were formed in the territory of the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex.
This also explains the contrast between Iranian and Armenian groups: the latter mostly lack the R1a lineage, contrasting with all Iranian groups (even their Kurdish neighbors) who possess it. Conversely, Iranian groups, and especially eastern Iranians and Indo-Ayrans lack the R1b lineage. This is due to the fact that neither R1a nor R1b were originally part of the Indo-European community, but their geographical position was such that they came under the influence of the Indo-Europeans when the latter began their expansion.
UPDATE VI: I have created my own dendrogram using the Y-haplogroup frequencies and the hclust package of R (default parameters):
From top to bottom, one can identify some clusters:
- Eastern Europe, further broken down into Balkans and Slavic+Hungary
- West Asian/Caucasus
- Iranian Proper
These correspond largely to the clusters identified by the authors, with India and the Turkmen sample emerging as the clear outliers. I omitted the Ethiopian samples, since E-M78 was not resolved phylogenetically, causing the Ethiopians to group with the likely E-V13 from the Balkans.
UPDATE VII: I have also run MCLUST over the haplogroup frequency data over the MDS representation of the distance matrix. The maximum number of 10 clusters occurred with 5 MDS dimensions retained. Population assignments in the 10 clusters can be found in the table below:
We can ignore cluster #4 which consists of the two outliers (India + Turkmen). The rest of the clusters seem relatively coherent. Notice, for example, the Arabian cluster #10, Balkan cluster #8, Eastern European cluster #9, Greek-Albanian cluster #7, Mixed Arab cluster #5.
PLoS ONE 7(7): e41252. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041252
Ancient Migratory Events in the Middle East: New Clues from the Y-Chromosome Variation of Modern Iranians
Viola Grugni et al.
Knowledge of high resolution Y-chromosome haplogroup diversification within Iran provides important geographic context regarding the spread and compartmentalization of male lineages in the Middle East and southwestern Asia. At present, the Iranian population is characterized by an extraordinary mix of different ethnic groups speaking a variety of Indo-Iranian, Semitic and Turkic languages. Despite these features, only few studies have investigated the multiethnic components of the Iranian gene pool. In this survey 938 Iranian male DNAs belonging to 15 ethnic groups from 14 Iranian provinces were analyzed for 84 Y-chromosome biallelic markers and 10 STRs. The results show an autochthonous but non-homogeneous ancient background mainly composed by J2a sub-clades with different external contributions. The phylogeography of the main haplogroups allowed identifying post-glacial and Neolithic expansions toward western Eurasia but also recent movements towards the Iranian region from western Eurasia (R1b-L23), Central Asia (Q-M25), Asia Minor (J2a-M92) and southern Mesopotamia (J1-Page08). In spite of the presence of important geographic barriers (Zagros and Alborz mountain ranges, and the Dasht-e Kavir and Dash-e Lut deserts) which may have limited gene flow, AMOVA analysis revealed that language, in addition to geography, has played an important role in shaping the nowadays Iranian gene pool. Overall, this study provides a portrait of the Y-chromosomal variation in Iran, useful for depicting a more comprehensive history of the peoples of this area as well as for reconstructing ancient migration routes. In addition, our results evidence the important role of the Iranian plateau as source and recipient of gene flow between culturally and genetically distinct populations.