The Genetic Impact of the Lake Chad Basin Population in North Africa as Documented by Mitochondrial Diversity and Internal Variation of the L3e5 Haplogroup

Authors

  • Eliška Podgorná,

    1. Department of Anthropology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
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  • Pedro Soares,

    1. IPATIMUP (Instituto de Patologia e Imunologia Molecular da Universidade do Porto), Porto, Portugal
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  • Luísa Pereira,

    1. IPATIMUP (Instituto de Patologia e Imunologia Molecular da Universidade do Porto), Porto, Portugal
    2. Faculdade de Medicina, da Universidade do Porto, Portugal
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  • Viktor Černý

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute for Advanced Study, Paris, France
    • Archaeogenetics Laboratory, Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic
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Corresponding author: VIKTOR CERNY, Archaeogenetic laboratory, Institute of Archaeology, Prague, Letenská 4, 11801 Prague. Tel: +00420257014304; Fax: +00420257532288; E-mail: cerny@arup.cas.cz

Summary

The presence of sub-Saharan L-type mtDNA sequences in North Africa has traditionally been explained by the recent slave trade. However, gene flow between sub-Saharan and northern African populations would also have been made possible earlier through the greening of the Sahara resulting from Early Holocene climatic improvement. In this article, we examine human dispersals across the Sahara through the analysis of the sub-Saharan mtDNA haplogroup L3e5, which is not only commonly found in the Lake Chad Basin (∼17%), but which also attains nonnegligible frequencies (∼10%) in some Northwestern African populations. Age estimates point to its origin ∼10 ka, probably directly in the Lake Chad Basin, where the clade occurs across linguistic boundaries. The virtual absence of this specific haplogroup in Daza from Northern Chad and all West African populations suggests that its migration took place elsewhere, perhaps through Northern Niger. Interestingly, independent confirmation of Early Holocene contacts between North Africa and the Lake Chad Basin have been provided by craniofacial data from Central Niger, supporting our suggestion that the Early Holocene offered a suitable climatic window for genetic exchanges between North and sub-Saharan Africa. In view of its younger founder age in North Africa, the discontinuous distribution of L3e5 was probably caused by the Middle Holocene re-expansion of the Sahara desert, disrupting the clade's original continuous spread.

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