Signatures of the preagricultural peopling processes in sub-saharan africa as revealed by the phylogeography of early y chromosome lineages

Chiara Batini, Gianmarco Ferri, Giovanni Destro-Bisol, Francesca Brisighelli, Donata Luiselli, Paula Sánchez-Diz, Jorge Rocha, Tatum Simonson, Antonio Brehm, Valeria Montano, Nasr Eldin Elwali, Gabriella Spedini, María Eugenia D'Amato, Natalie Myres, Peter Ebbesen, David Comas, Cristian Capelli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The study of Y chromosome variation has helped reconstruct demographic events associated with the spread of languages, agriculture, and pastoralism in sub-Saharan Africa, but little attention has been given to the early history of the continent. In order to overcome this lack of knowledge, we carried out a phylogeographic analysis of haplogroups A and B in a broad data set of sub-Saharan populations. These two lineages are particularly suitable for this objective because they are the two most deeply rooted branches of the Y chromosome genealogy. Their distribution is almost exclusively restricted to sub-Saharan Africa where their frequency peaks at 65% in groups of foragers. The combined high-resolution single nucleotide polymorphism analysis with short tandem repeats variation of their subclades reveals strong geographic and population structure for both haplogroups. This has allowed us to identify specific lineages related to regional preagricultural dynamics in different areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, we observed signatures of relatively recent contact, both among Pygmies and between them and Khoisan speaker groups from southern Africa, thus contributing to the understanding of the complex evolutionary relationships among African hunter-gatherers. Finally, by revising the phylogeography of the very early human Y chromosome lineages, we have obtained support for the role of southern Africa as a sink, rather than a source, of the first migrations of modern humans from eastern and central parts of the continent. These results open new perspectives on the early history of Homo sapiens in Africa, with particular attention to areas of the continent where human fossil remains and archaeological data are scant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2603-2613
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2011


  • Homo sapiens
  • phylogeography
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • Y chromosome


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