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Mol Biol Evol. 2009 Jul;26(7):1581-9. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msp069. Epub 2009 Apr 15.

Genetic and demographic implications of the Bantu expansion: insights from human paternal lineages.

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  • 1Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas-UPF, CEXS-UPF-PRBB, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


The expansion of Bantu languages, which started around 5,000 years before present in west/central Africa and spread all throughout sub-Saharan Africa, may represent one of the major and most rapid demographic movements in the history of the human species. Although the genetic footprints of this expansion have been unmasked through the analyses of the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA lineages, information on the genetic impact of this massive movement and on the genetic composition of pre-Bantu populations is still scarce. Here, we analyze an extensive collection of Y-chromosome markers--41 single nucleotide polymorphisms and 18 short tandem repeats--in 883 individuals from 22 Bantu-speaking agriculturalist populations and 3 Pygmy hunter-gatherer populations from Gabon and Cameroon. Our data reveal a recent origin for most paternal lineages in west Central African populations most likely resulting from the expansion of Bantu-speaking farmers that erased the more ancient Y-chromosome diversity found in this area. However, some traces of ancient paternal lineages are observed in these populations, mainly among hunter-gatherers. These results are at odds with those obtained from mtDNA analyses, where high frequencies of ancient maternal lineages are observed, and substantial maternal gene flow from hunter-gatherers to Bantu farmers has been suggested. These differences are most likely explained by sociocultural factors such as patrilocality. We also find the intriguing presence of paternal lineages belonging to Eurasian haplogroup R1b1*, which might represent footprints of demographic expansions in central Africa not directly related to the Bantu expansion.

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