Racial Composition and History of India

December 10, 2012

DNA evidence confirms what historians, linguists and anthropologists have long known but nationalists have denied: that Indians are mainly a mix of indigenous Australoids and intrusive Caucasoids. They're composed of two genetic components, one related to Andaman Islanders and the other to Western Eurasians, which is higher in upper castes. The estimated dates of admixture between the two are consistent with the introduction of Indo-Aryan languages from the northwest and probably also earlier events related to the spread of Dravidian languages and even agriculture.

India has been underrepresented in genome-wide surveys of human variation. We analyse 25 diverse groups in India to provide strong evidence for two ancient populations, genetically divergent, that are ancestral to most Indians today. One, the "Ancestral North Indians" (ANI), is genetically close to Middle Easterners, Central Asians, and Europeans, whereas the other, the "Ancestral South Indians" (ASI), is as distinct from ANI and East Asians as they are from each other. By introducing methods that can estimate ancestry without accurate ancestral populations, we show that ANI ancestry ranges from 39-71% in most Indian groups, and is higher in traditionally upper caste and Indo-European speakers. Groups with only ASI ancestry may no longer exist in mainland India. However, the Andamanese are an ASI-related group without ANI ancestry, showing that the peopling of the islands must have occurred before ANI-ASI gene flow on the mainland. Allele frequency differences between groups in India are larger than in Europe, reflecting strong founder effects whose signatures have been maintained for thousands of years owing to endogamy. We therefore predict that there will be an excess of recessive diseases in India, which should be possible to screen and map genetically.

Reich et al. "Reconstructing Indian Population History". Nature, 2009.

Metspalu et al. "Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia". Am J Hum Genet, 2011.

Linguistic and genetic studies have shown that most Indian groups have ancestry from two genetically divergent populations, Ancestral North Indians (ANI) and Ancestral South Indians (ASI). However, the date of mixture still remains unknown. We analyze genome-wide data from about 60 South Asian groups using a newly developed method that utilizes information related to admixture linkage disequilibrium to estimate mixture dates. Our analyses suggest that major ANI-ASI mixture occurred in the ancestors of both northern and southern Indians 1,200-3,500 years ago, overlapping the time when Indo-European languages first began to be spoken in the subcontinent. These results suggest that this formative period of Indian history was accompanied by mixtures between two highly diverged populations, although our results do not rule out other, older ANI-ASI admixture events. A cultural shift subsequently led to widespread endogamy, which decreased the rate of additional population mixtures.

Moorjani et al. "Estimating a date of mixture of ancestral South Asian populations", Evolutionary and Population Genetics, 2012.

The paper provides an overview of the spatial and temporal aspects of human morphological variation in India. Four morphological types — Australoids, Negritos, Mongoloids and Caucasoids — have been discerned in the contemporary Indian population. The Australoids appear to be the oldest and have evolved in India. The Caucasoids are physically heterogeneous and suggests incorporation of more than one physical type involving more than one migration. The within-type variance compared to between-type variance for characters studied is smaller. The paper further discusses the observed variability in terms of Indian social organization as well as in terms of endogamy, small numerical strength of the groups and varying ecological conditions prevalent in India.

K.C. Malhotra. "Morphological Composition of the People of India". J Hum Evol, 1978.

Indian Male Composite
Indian Female Composite

Assumed parental groups:

Andamanese Australoid
Iranian Caucasoid

Degrees of admixture:

Austroasiatic speaker
Austroasiatic speaker

Dravidian speaker
Dravidian speaker

Indo-European speaker
Indo-European speaker
(Kashmiri Pandit)

Welsh Are the Most Ancient Britons

July 5, 2012

The Welsh (and Cornish) may be the Sardinians of the UK: relatively pure descendants of prehistoric Britons, minimally altered by post-Neolithic gene flow. Interestingly, they and Sardinians are each the darkest and most racially Mediterranean populations in their respective countries, having the highest rates of black hair and brown eyes and the lowest rates of blondism (Coon, 1939: Ch. X, Sec. 3 and Ch. XI, Sec. 16).

Welsh people could lay claim to be the most ancient Britons, according to scientists who have drawn up a genetic map of the British Isles.

Research suggests the Welsh are genetically distinct from the rest of mainland Britain.

Professor Peter Donnelly, of Oxford University, said the Welsh carry DNA which could be traced back to the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago.

The project surveyed 2,000 people in rural areas across Britain.

Participants, as well as their parents and grandparents, had to be born in those areas to be included in the study.

Prof Donnelly, a professor of statistical science at Oxford University and director of the Wellcome Trust centre for human genetics, said DNA samples were analysed at about 500,000 different points.

After comparing statistics, a map was compiled which showed Wales and Cornwall stood out.

Prof Donnelly said: "People from Wales are genetically relatively distinct, they look different genetically from much of the rest of mainland Britain, and actually people in north Wales look relatively distinct from people in south Wales."

While there were traces of migrant groups across the UK, there were fewer in Wales and Cornwall.

He said people from south and north Wales genetically have "fairly large similarities with the ancestry of people from Ireland on the one hand and France on the other, which we think is most likely to be a combination of remnants of very ancient populations who moved across into Britain after the last Ice Age.

"And potentially also, people travelling up the Atlantic coast of France and Spain and settling in Wales many thousands of years ago".


He said it was possible that people came over from Ireland to north Wales because it was the closest point, and the same for people coming to south Wales from the continent, as it was nearer.

However he added: "We don't really have the historical evidence about what those genetic inputs were."

The geography of Wales made it more likely that ancient DNA would be retained.

Because of its westerly position and mountainous nature, Anglo-Saxons who moved into central and eastern England after the Romans left did not come that far west, and neither did the Vikings who arrived in around 900AD.

The professor said modern people from central and southern England had many genetic similarities to modern people in Denmark and Germany.

The mountains were also the reason why DNA may have remained relatively unchanged, as people would have found it harder to get from north to south Wales or into England compared with people trying to move across the flatter southern English counties, making them more likely to marry locally and conserve more ancient DNA.

"In north Wales, there has been relative isolation because people moved less because of geographical barriers," Prof Donnelly said.

He added that some of these factors also held true for the extreme edges of Scotland, while the Orkney islands showed DNA connections to Norway.

The next stage of the research will looking at physical similarities between different groups, in which the team will use photographs of people and make 3D models to measure quantitative similarities between related groups.

"Welsh people could be most ancient in UK, DNA suggests". BBC News, June 19, 2012.

Separate Origin of Blondism in Oceania

May 5, 2012

Science can't yet tell us whether they have more fun — but it has uncovered a new genetic change that makes people blonde. And contrary to long held belief, it seems golden hair hasn't simply been introduced across the globe by travelling tow heads, but instead evolved separately in different human populations.

Indigenous people of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific have some of the darkest skin pigmentation outside of Africa. But unlike most other tropical populations, they also have a high prevalence of blonde hair. Up to 10 per cent of the population is fair haired, the highest proportion outside of Europe. Until now, this odd trait had generally been attributed to the introduction of blonde genes by European explorers and traders in preceding centuries. "We originally thought, well that must be a Captain Cook allele," says Carlos Bustamante at Stanford University.

Yet a closer look revealed that the genetics behind blonde hair in Brussels are distinct from those leading to flaxen locks in the South Pacific.

Bustamante, Sean Myles and colleagues at Stanford discovered this after analysing saliva samples from 43 blondes and 42 dark-haired Solomon Islanders. A genome-wide scan pointed to a single strong difference between the groups at a gene called TYRP1. Further analysis revealed that a single-letter change in the gene accounted for 46 per cent of the population's hair colour variation, with the blonde allele being recessive to the dark hair allele. The blonde mutation wasn't found in any of the 900 other individuals sampled from outside the South Pacific (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1217849).

TYRP1 is known to be involved in skin and hair pigmentation in several species. In normally black mice, for example, a mutation in the gene produces light brown coats. A rare kind of human albinism is also caused by mutations in TYRP1, which produces reddish skin colour and ginger hair. TYRP1 isn't, however, one of the genes that produces blonde hair in Europeans. The novel blonde mutation in Solomon Islanders is likely to have cropped up around 10,000 years ago, and it appears to be the same one behind blondness in Fiji and other regions of the South Pacific.

"Before this, everybody would have thought, blonde hair evolved once in humans," says Bustamante. "This tells us we can't really assume that even these common mutations are common across different human populations. Non-European populations are critical to study to find mutations that may be underlying the vast phenotypic variation of humans."

Lisa Raffensperger. "Blonde hair evolved independently in Pacific islands". NewScientist, May 3, 2012.

EU Overweight and Obesity Statistics

February 21, 2012

This article presents recent statistics on overweight and obesity in the European Union (EU). Weight problems and obesity are increasing at an alarming rate: over the last decade the proportion of the population that is overweight has increased considerably in most Member States, resulting in more than half the EU population being overweight or obese.

Obesity is a serious public health problem, as it significantly increases the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary-heart diseases and certain cancers. For individuals, psychological problems associated with obesity are common, wide-ranging and potentially serious. For society, obesity has substantial direct and indirect costs that put a strain on healthcare and social resources.

Among the 19 Member States for which data are available, the proportion of overweight and obese people in the adult population varied in 2008/09 between 36.9 % and 56.7 % for women and between 51 % and 69.3 % for men.

For both women and men aged 18 years and over, the lowest shares of obesity in 2008/09 were observed in Romania (8.0 % for women and 7.6 % for men), Italy (9.3 % and 11.3 %), Bulgaria (11.3 % and 11.6 %) and France (12.7 % and 11.7 %). The highest proportions of obese women were recorded in the United Kingdom (23.9 %), Malta (21.1 %), Latvia (20.9 %) and Estonia (20.5 % in 2006), and of men in Malta (24.7 %), the United Kingdom (22.1 %), Hungary (21.4 %) and the Czech Republic (18.4 %).

There is no systematic difference in obesity between women and men across the Member States available. The proportion of obesity was higher for women in eight Member States, higher for men in ten and equal in one. However, for overweight there is a clear gender difference: in all Member States available the proportion of overweight men is much higher than for women (differences from 8.5 % in Hungary to 18.2 % in Slovenia).

The share of overweight and obese persons increases with age. The average difference between the youngest and oldest age groups is for men around 44 % and for women around 53 %. For women there is a clear pattern in all the Member States available: the older the age group, the higher the share of overweight and obese persons. For men, the pattern is a little different: increase of overweight and obesity is systematic till 65. For the age group 65-74 the picture is less uniform: For seven of the Member States available the highest share of overweight and obese men was recorded for the age group 65-74.

The share of overweight and obese persons tends to fall with educational level. For women, the pattern is clear in all Member States available: the proportion of women who are obese or overweight falls as the educational level rises. For women the differences between lower and upper education level vary between 12.8 and 36.7 %. For men, the pattern is again slightly different. Differences are smaller and the distribution is different: in 8 of the available Member States, the highest share of overweight and obese men is observed for those with the lowest educational level, in six Member States for those with a medium educational level while in 4 countries it is for those with a high educational level.

Overweight and Obesity — BMI Statistics. Eurostat — Statistics Explained, 2012.