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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 May 24;102(21):7476-80. Epub 2005 May 13.

Molecular analysis reveals tighter social regulation of immigration in patrilocal populations than in matrilocal populations.

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Computational and Molecular Population Genetics Laboratory, Zoological Institute, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, 3012 Bern, Switzerland.


Human social organization can deeply affect levels of genetic diversity. This fact implies that genetic information can be used to study social structures, which is the basis of ethnogenetics. Recently, methods have been developed to extract this information from genetic data gathered from subdivided populations that have gone through recent spatial expansions, which is typical of most human populations. Here, we perform a Bayesian analysis of mitochondrial and Y chromosome diversity in three matrilocal and three patrilocal groups from northern Thailand to infer the number of males and females arriving in these populations each generation and to estimate the age of their range expansion. We find that the number of male immigrants is 8 times smaller in patrilocal populations than in matrilocal populations, whereas women move 2.5 times more in patrilocal populations than in matrilocal populations. In addition to providing genetic quantification of sex-specific dispersal rates in human populations, we show that although men and women are exchanged at a similar rate between matrilocal populations, there are far fewer men than women moving into patrilocal populations. This finding is compatible with the hypothesis that men are strictly controlling male immigration and promoting female immigration in patrilocal populations and that immigration is much less regulated in matrilocal populations.

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