Chinese share Indian genes

Unity in diversity

One of the biggest ever studies to genetically grasp the pan-Asian diversity, suggests almost 60,000-70,000 years ago, early humans came first to India from Africa and subsequently moved out to East and South East Asia in “one single wave of migration.”
Analysing 1900 individual samples representing 73 populations, it strongly advocates that the most recent common ancestors of Asians arrived first in India.

Published in ‘Science’ on Friday, the research shows a “single primary wave of entry of humans into the continent.” It was undertaken by a consortium of 40 Asian laboratories under the Human Genome Organisation.

Academics so far have struggled to fully understand the great Asian diversity. The continent has thousands of ethnic groups, native languages and dialects.

“We have breached political and ideological boundaries to show that the people of Asia are linked by a unifying thread,” said Samir Brahmachari, director general of CSIR and head of the Indian team.

While the research seems to suggest Indian ancestry even to the Chinese population, some of the senior researchers in the same project, have a word of caution. They said more data is required before jumping the gun. “I would not speculate on the immediate ancestry of Chinese to Indians. We need to look at more genetic data from the Middle East before arriving at any conclusion,” Partha P Majumder, head of the human genetics unit at Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, said.

Currently there are two theories to describe peopling of Asia. The dominant one illustrates two waves of migration from Africa – the first one moving along the shore line to arrive at India and subsequently to East Asia and the second wave of migration going straight to the Eurasian steppe and turning south to the Asian mainland.

The second theory proposes only one wave of migration from Africa along the coast line.
“This new analysis strongly concludes the southern route made a more important contribution to East and Southeast Asian population,” said Li Jin, a population geneticist at Fudan University in Shanghai.

In the absence of more concrete evidence, the researchers declined to put a definitive time-line on the great Indian exodus. “But it may have taken place 40,000 to 60,000 years ago,” he said.

The pan-Asian family tree and the migration pattern were studied by analysing the genes of almost 2000 Asians in 40 laboratories.

It signifies coming of age for Asian genome studies because so far most of the Asian genome analysis was carried out by European and American scientists.

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