The Making of the African mtDNA Landscape

Antonio Salas, Martin Richards, Tomás De la Fe, María Victoria Lareu, Beatriz Sobrino, Paula Sánchez-Diz, Vincent Macaulay, Ángel Carracedo

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392 Citations (Scopus)


Africa presents the most complex genetic picture of any continent, with a time depth for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineages >100,000 years. The most recent widespread demographic shift within the continent was most probably the Bantu dispersals, which archaeological and linguistic evidence suggest originated in West Africa 3,000-4,000 years ago, spreading both east and south. Here, we have carried out a thorough phylogeographic analysis of mtDNA variation in a total of 2,847 samples from throughout the continent, including 307 new sequences from southeast African Bantu speakers. The results suggest that the southeast Bantu speakers have a composite origin on the maternal line of descent, with ∼44% of lineages deriving from West Africa, ∼21% from either West or Central Africa, ∼30% from East Africa, and ∼5% from southern African Khoisan-speaking groups. The ages of the major founder types of both West and East African origin are consistent with the likely timing of Bantu dispersals, with those from the west somewhat predating those from the east. Despite this composite picture, the southeastern African Bantu groups are indistinguishable from each other with respect to their mtDNA, suggesting that they either had a common origin at the point of entry into southeastern Africa or have undergone very extensive gene flow since.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1082-1111
Number of pages30
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number5
Early online date22 Oct 2002
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


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