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PLoS Biol. 2005 Mar;3(3):e71. Epub 2005 Feb 22.

Recent origin and cultural reversion of a hunter-gatherer group.

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  • 1Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.

Abstract

Contemporary hunter-gatherer groups are often thought to serve as models of an ancient lifestyle that was typical of human populations prior to the development of agriculture. Patterns of genetic variation in hunter-gatherer groups such as the Kung and African Pygmies are consistent with this view, as they exhibit low genetic diversity coupled with high frequencies of divergent mtDNA types not found in surrounding agricultural groups, suggesting long-term isolation and small population sizes. We report here genetic evidence concerning the origins of the Mlabri, an enigmatic hunter-gatherer group from northern Thailand. The Mlabri have no mtDNA diversity, and the genetic diversity at Y-chromosome and autosomal loci are also extraordinarily reduced in the Mlabri. Genetic, linguistic, and cultural data all suggest that the Mlabri were recently founded, 500-800 y ago, from a very small number of individuals. Moreover, the Mlabri appear to have originated from an agricultural group and then adopted a hunting-gathering subsistence mode. This example of cultural reversion from agriculture to a hunting-gathering lifestyle indicates that contemporary hunter-gatherer groups do not necessarily reflect a pre-agricultural lifestyle.

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PMID:
15736978
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1044832
Free PMC Article

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