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J Hum Genet. 2007;52(12):999-1010. Epub 2007 Oct 24.

The ins and outs of population relationships in west-Mediterranean islands: data from autosomal Alu polymorphisms and Alu/STR compound systems.

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  • 1Unitat d'Antropologia, Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


The islands of the West Mediterranean have played a central role in numerous archaeological, historical and anthropological studies due to their active participation in the history of main Mediterranean civilisations. However, genetic data failed to fit in both their degree of internal differentiation and relationships. A set of 18 Alu markers and three short tandem repeats (STRs) closely linked to the CD4, F13B and DM Alu have been analysed in seven samples from Majorca, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily to explore some of these issues. Our samples show a high genetic heterogeneity inside and among islands for the Alu data. Global differentiation among islands (F(ST) 2.2%) is slightly higher than that described for Europeans and North Africans. Both the estimated divergence times among samples and the high population heterogeneity revealed by Alu data are compatible with population differences since the first islands' settlement in the Paleolithic period. However, the high within-population diversities and the remarkable homogeneity observed in both STR and Alu/STR haplotype variation indicated that, at least since Neolithic times, gene flow has been acting in west Mediterranean. Genetic drift in west-coast Sardinia and gene flow in west Sicily have contributed to their general differentiation, whereas Corsica, Majorca and east Sicily seem to reflect more recent historical relationships from continental south Europe.

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