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Keywords:

  • mtDNA;
  • admixture;
  • Reunion Island;
  • phylogeography;
  • Indian Diaspora;
  • ethnic groups

Summary

Reunion Island is a French territory located in the western Indian Ocean. The genetic pattern of the Reunionese population has been shaped by contributions from highly contrasting regions of the world. Over the last 350 years, several migration waves and cultural and socio-economic factors have led to the emergence of six main ethnic groups in Reunion. India is one of the principal regions that contributed to the setting up of the Reunionese population. Diversity, demographic and admixture analyses were performed on mtDNA variation of the Reunionese of Indian ancestry, including the Malbar and Zarab ethnic groups, in order to question their history. Using a phylogeographical approach, we generated and analysed quantitative data on the contribution of the Indian parental populations. Furthermore, we showed that the settlement of Reunion Island by Indians did not involve a founder effect, except in the very beginning of the Reunionese settlement (at the end of the 17th century). The accuracy of our results was optimised by a re-evaluation of the classification of the Southern Asian mtDNA haplogroups. Finally, by comparing our results to a previous study dealing with the Reunionese population, we highlighted how ethno-historical data are critical for reconstructing the complex history of multiethnic populations.