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Mol Biol Evol. 2015 Sep;32(9):2254-62. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv102. Epub 2015 May 12.

Relaxed Observance of Traditional Marriage Rules Allows Social Connectivity without Loss of Genetic Diversity.

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Statistics and Bioinformatics Group, Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
ARL Division of Biotechnology, University of Arizona.
Complexity Institute, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Statistics and Bioinformatics Group, Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand


Marriage rules, the community prescriptions that dictate who an individual can or cannot marry, are extremely diverse and universally present in traditional societies. A major focus of research in the early decades of modern anthropology, marriage rules impose social and economic forces that help structure societies and forge connections between them. However, in those early anthropological studies, the biological benefits or disadvantages of marriage rules could not be determined. We revisit this question by applying a novel simulation framework and genome-wide data to explore the effects of Asymmetric Prescriptive Alliance, an elaborate set of marriage rules that has been a focus of research for many anthropologists. Simulations show that strict adherence to these marriage rules reduces genetic diversity on the autosomes, X chromosome and mitochondrial DNA, but relaxed compliance produces genetic diversity similar to random mating. Genome-wide data from the Indonesian community of Rindi, one of the early study populations for Asymmetric Prescriptive Alliance, are more consistent with relaxed compliance than strict adherence. We therefore suggest that, in practice, marriage rules are treated with sufficient flexibility to allow social connectivity without significant degradation of biological diversity.


Approximate Bayesian Computation; Asymmetric Prescriptive Alliance; Indonesia; genetic diversity; mating systems

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