Small Traditional Human Communities Sustain Genomic Diversity over Microgeographic Scales despite Linguistic Isolation

Murray P. Cox, Georgi Hudjashov, Andre Sim, Olga Savina, Tatiana Karafet, Herawati Sudoyo, J. Stephen Lansing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

At least since the Neolithic, humans have largely lived in networks of small, traditional communities. Often socially isolated, these groups evolved distinct languages and cultures over microgeographic scales of just tens of kilometers. Population genetic theory tells us that genetic drift should act quickly in such isolated groups, thus raising the question: do networks of small human communities maintain levels of genetic diversity over microgeographic scales? This question can no longer be asked in most parts of the world, which have been heavily impacted by historical events that make traditional society structures the exception. However, such studies remain possible in parts of Island Southeast Asia and Oceania, where traditional ways of life are still practiced. We captured genome-wide genetic data, together with linguistic records, for a case-study system-eight villages distributed across Sumba, a small, remote island in eastern Indonesia. More than 4,000 years after these communities were established during the Neolithic period, most speak different languages and can be distinguished genetically. Yet their nuclear diversity is not reduced, instead being comparable to other, even much larger, regional groups. Modeling reveals a separation of time scales: while languages and culture can evolve quickly, creating social barriers, sporadic migration averaged over many generations is sufficient to keep villages linked genetically. This loosely-connected network structure, once the global norm and still extant on Sumba today, provides a living proxy to explore fine-scale genome dynamics in the sort of small traditional communities within which the most recent episodes of human evolution occurred.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2273-2284
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Volume33
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Fingerprint

Metagenomics
Linguistics
genomics
Language
Islands
villages
village
social barriers
genome
Oceania
Genome
Genetic Drift
human evolution
Southeastern Asia
Indonesia
genetic drift
Pacific Ocean Islands
Population Genetics
Population Dynamics
Proxy

Keywords

  • gene flow
  • genetic diversity
  • linguistic diversity
  • population structure.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

Cite this

Small Traditional Human Communities Sustain Genomic Diversity over Microgeographic Scales despite Linguistic Isolation. / Cox, Murray P.; Hudjashov, Georgi; Sim, Andre; Savina, Olga; Karafet, Tatiana; Sudoyo, Herawati; Lansing, J. Stephen.

In: Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol. 33, No. 9, 01.09.2016, p. 2273-2284.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cox, Murray P. ; Hudjashov, Georgi ; Sim, Andre ; Savina, Olga ; Karafet, Tatiana ; Sudoyo, Herawati ; Lansing, J. Stephen. / Small Traditional Human Communities Sustain Genomic Diversity over Microgeographic Scales despite Linguistic Isolation. In: Molecular Biology and Evolution. 2016 ; Vol. 33, No. 9. pp. 2273-2284.
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