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J Hum Genet. 2006;51(3):217-26. Epub 2006 Feb 2.

Molecular insights into the origins of the Shompen, a declining population of the Nicobar archipelago.

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National DNA Analysis Centre, Central Forensic Science Laboratory, 30 Gorachand Road, Kolkata, 700014, West Bengal, India.


The Shompen, one of the most isolated and poorly understood contemporary hunter-gatherer populations, inhabit Great Nicobar Island, the southernmost island of the Nicobar archipelago. Morphological imprints in the Shompen were interpreted to favour a mixed Indo-Chinese, Malay, Negrito and Dravidian origin. Analyses of the mitochondrial, Y-chromosomal and autosomal gene pool of contemporary Shompen have revealed low diversity, illustrating a founder effect in the island population. Mitochondrial sequence analyses revealed the presence of two haplogroups of R lineage: B5a, and a newly defined clade, R12. Y-chromosomal analyses demonstrated the occurrence of a single lineage found predominantly in Austro-Asiatic speakers across Asia. With the different types of genetic markers analysed, the Shompen exhibit varying levels of genetic relatedness with the Nicobarese, and Austro-Asiatic speakers of mainland India and Southeast Asia. These genetic analyses provide evidence that the Shompen, an offshoot of the Nicobarese, are descendants of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asian origin, deriving from at least two source populations.

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