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New research reveals the ancestral populations of India and their relationships to modern groups
Date:9/23/2009

al populations. "Different Indian groups have inherited forty to eighty percent of their ancestry from a population that we call the Ancestral North Indians who are related to western Eurasians, and the rest from the Ancestral South Indians, who are not related to any group outside India," said co-author David Reich, an associate professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and an associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

The finding that nearly all Indian groups descend from mixtures of two ancestral populations applies to traditional "tribes" as well as "castes." Kumarasamy Thangaraj, a senior research scientist at CCMB in Hyderabad and a co-author said, "It is impossible to distinguish castes from tribes using the data. The genetics proves that they are not systematically different. This supports the view that castes grew directly out of tribal-like organizations during the formation of Indian society."

The one exception to the finding that all Indian groups are mixed is the indigenous people of the Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean with a census of only a few hundred today. The Andamanese appear to be related exclusively to the Ancestral South Indian lineage and therefore lack Ancestral North Indian ancestry.

"The Andamanese are unique," said co-author Nick Patterson, a mathematician and researcher at the Broad Institute. "Understanding their origins provides a window onto the history of the Ancestral South Indians, and the period tens of thousands of years ago when they diverged from other Eurasians." Added Singh, "Our project to sample the disappearing tribes of the Andaman Islands has been more successful than we could have hoped, as the Andamanese are the only surviving remnant of the ancient colonizers of South Asia."

The researchers' work also has surprising and important medical implications. They discovered that many groups in modern India descend from a small number of founding
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Contact: Nicole Davis
ndavis@broadinstitute.org
617-714-7152
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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