The Arabian cradle: mitochondrial relicts of the first steps along the southern route out of Africa.
ABSTRACT A major unanswered question regarding the dispersal of modern humans around the world concerns the geographical site of the first human steps outside of Africa. The "southern coastal route" model predicts that the early stages of the dispersal took place when people crossed the Red Sea to southern Arabia, but genetic evidence has hitherto been tenuous. We have addressed this question by analyzing the three minor west-Eurasian haplogroups, N1, N2, and X. These lineages branch directly from the first non-African founder node, the root of haplogroup N, and coalesce to the time of the first successful movement of modern humans out of Africa, ∼60 thousand years (ka) ago. We sequenced complete mtDNA genomes from 85 Southwest Asian samples carrying these haplogroups and compared them with a database of 300 European examples. The results show that these minor haplogroups have a relict distribution that suggests an ancient ancestry within the Arabian Peninsula, and they most likely spread from the Gulf Oasis region toward the Near East and Europe during the pluvial period 55-24 ka ago. This pattern suggests that Arabia was indeed the first staging post in the spread of modern humans around the world.
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ABSTRACT: We introduce the Bayesian skyline plot, a new method for estimating past population dynamics through time from a sample of molecular sequences without dependence on a prespecified parametric model of demographic history. We describe a Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling procedure that efficiently samples a variant of the generalized skyline plot, given sequence data, and combines these plots to generate a posterior distribution of effective population size through time. We apply the Bayesian skyline plot to simulated data sets and show that it correctly reconstructs demographic history under canonical scenarios. Finally, we compare the Bayesian skyline plot model to previous coalescent approaches by analyzing two real data sets (hepatitis C virus in Egypt and mitochondrial DNA of Beringian bison) that have been previously investigated using alternative coalescent methods. In the bison analysis, we detect a severe but previously unrecognized bottleneck, estimated to have occurred 10,000 radiocarbon years ago, which coincides with both the earliest undisputed record of large numbers of humans in Alaska and the megafaunal extinctions in North America at the beginning of the Holocene.Molecular Biology and Evolution 06/2005; 22(5):1185-92. · 10.35 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The origin of the Andaman "Negrito" and Nicobar "Mongoloid" populations has been ambiguous. Our analyses of complete mitochondrial DNA sequences from Onges and Great Andaman populations revealed two deeply branching clades that share their most recent common ancestor in founder haplogroup M, with lineages spread among India, Africa, East Asia, New Guinea, and Australia. This distribution suggests that these two clades have likely survived in genetic isolation since the initial settlement of the islands during an out-of-Africa migration by anatomically modern humans. In contrast, Nicobarese sequences illustrate a close genetic relationship with populations from Southeast Asia.Science 06/2005; 308(5724):996. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: A recent dispersal of modern humans out of Africa is now widely accepted, but the routes taken across Eurasia are still disputed. We show that mitochondrial DNA variation in isolated "relict" populations in southeast Asia supports the view that there was only a single dispersal from Africa, most likely via a southern coastal route, through India and onward into southeast Asia and Australasia. There was an early offshoot, leading ultimately to the settlement of the Near East and Europe, but the main dispersal from India to Australia approximately 65,000 years ago was rapid, most likely taking only a few thousand years.Science 06/2005; 308(5724):1034-6. · 31.20 Impact Factor