The Genetic Legacy of the Expansion of Turkic-Speaking Nomads Across Eurasia
Posted 30 Jul 2014
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/005850 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005068)
Posted 30 Jul 2014
The Turkic peoples represent a diverse collection of ethnic groups defined by the Turkic languages. These groups have dispersed across a vast area, including Siberia, Northwest China, Central Asia, East Europe, the Caucasus, Anatolia, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. The origin and early dispersal history of the Turkic peoples is disputed, with candidates for their ancient homeland ranging from the Transcaspian steppe to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. Previous genetic studies have not identified a clear-cut unifying genetic signal for the Turkic peoples, which lends support for language replacement rather than demic diffusion as the model for the Turkic language's expansion. We addressed the genetic origin of 373 individuals from 22 Turkic-speaking populations, representing their current geographic range, by analyzing genome-wide high-density genotype data. Most of the Turkic peoples studied, except those in Central Asia, genetically resembled their geographic neighbors, in agreement with the elite dominance model of language expansion. However, western Turkic peoples sampled across West Eurasia shared an excess of long chromosomal tracts that are identical by descent (IBD) with populations from present-day South Siberia and Mongolia (SSM), an area where historians center a series of early Turkic and non-Turkic steppe polities. The observed excess of long chromosomal tracts IBD (>1cM) between populations from SSM and Turkic peoples across West Eurasia was statistically significant. Finally, we used the ALDER method and inferred admixture dates (~9th-17th centuries) that overlap with the Turkic migrations of the 5th-16th centuries. Thus, our results indicate historical admixture among Turkic peoples, and the recent shared ancestry with modern populations in SSM supports one of the hypothesized homelands for their nomadic Turkic and related Mongolic ancestors.
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