Genetic Chaos

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols

We have identified a Y-chromosomal lineage with several unusual features. It was found in 16 populations throughout a large region of Asia, stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea, and was present at high frequency: approximately 8% of the men in this region carry it, and it thus makes up about 0.5% of the world total. The pattern of variation within the lineage suggested that it originated in Mongolia about 1,000 years ago. Such a rapid spread cannot have occurred by chance; it must have been a result of selection. The lineage is carried by likely male-line descendants of Genghis Khan, and we therefore propose that it has spread by a novel form of social selection resulting from their behavior.

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Genetic Evidence for the Mongolian Ancestry of Kalmyks

The Kalmyks are an ethnic group along the lower Volga River in Russia who are thought to have migrated there from Mongolia about 300 years ago. To investigate their origins, we studied mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation in 99 Kalmyks. Both mtDNA HV1 sequences and Y-chromosome SNP haplogroups indicate a close relationship of Kalmyks with Mongolians. In addition, genetic diversity for both mtDNA and the Y chromosome are comparable in Kalmyks, Mongolians, and other Central Asian groups, indicating that the Kalmyk migration was not associated with a substantial bottleneck. The so-called "Genghis Khan" Y-chromosome short tandem repeat (STR) haplotype was found in high frequency (31.3%) among Kalmyks, further supporting a strong genetic connection between Kalmyks and Mongolians. Genetic analyses of even recent, relatively well-documented migrations such as of the Kalmyks can therefore lead to new insights concerning such migrations.

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