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Genome-wide evidence of austronesian-bantu admixture and cultural reversion in a hunter-gatherer group of Madagascar

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Linguistic and cultural evidence suggest that Madagascar was the final point of two major dispersals of Austronesian- and Bantuspeaking populations. Today, the Mikea are described as the lastknown Malagasy population reported to be still practicing a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. It is unclear, however, whether the Mikea descend from a remnant population that existed before the arrival of Austronesian and Bantu agriculturalists or whether it is only their lifestyle that separates them from the other contemporary populations of South Madagascar. To address these questions we have performed a genome-wide analysis of >700,000 SNP markers on 21 Mikea, 24 Vezo, and 24 Temoro individuals, together with 50 individuals from Bajo and Lebbo populations from Indonesia. Our analyses of these data in the context of data available from other Southeast Asian and African populations reveal that all three Malagasy populations are derived from the same admixture event involving Austronesian and Bantu sources. In contrast to the fact that most of the vocabulary of the Malagasy speakers is derived from the Barito group of the Austronesian language family, we observe that only one-third of their genetic ancestry is related to the populations of the Java-Kalimantan-Sulawesi area. Because no additional ancestry components distinctive for the Mikea were found, it is likely that they have adopted their hunter-gatherer way of life through cultural reversion, and selection signals suggest a genetic adaptation to their new lifestyle.

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Pierron, D., Razafindrazaka, H., Pagani, L., Ricaut, F. X., Antao, T., Capredon, M., … Kivisild, T. (2014). Genome-wide evidence of austronesian-bantu admixture and cultural reversion in a hunter-gatherer group of Madagascar. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(3), 936–941.

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