Thursday, January 17, 2013
Genetic admixture in southern Africa
An international team of researchers from the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the CNRS in Lyon have investigated the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA of 500 individuals from southern Africa speaking different Khoisan and Bantu languages. Their results demonstrate that Khoisan foragers were genetically more diverse than previously known. Divergent mtDNA lineages from indigenous Khoisan groups were incorporated into the genepool of the immigrating Bantu-speaking agriculturalists through admixture, and have thus survived until the present day, although the Khoisan-speaking source populations themselves have become extinct.
The hunter-gatherer and pastoralist peoples of southern Africa who speak indigenous non-Bantu languages called Khoisan have intrigued researchers for a long time because their languages contain highly unusual click consonants and because they harbour some of the most deep-rooting genetic lineages in modern humans. Based on archaeological finds it is assumed that some of these Khoisan peoples are the descendants of indigenous Late Stone Age foragers, while peoples speaking Bantu languages immigrated into this area only 2,000-1,200 years ago.