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Extensive farming in Estonia started through a sex-biased migration from the Steppe

By Lehti Saag, Liivi Varul, Christiana Lyn Scheib, Jesper Stenderup, Morten E. Allentoft, Lauri Saag, Luca Pagani, Maere Reidla, Kristiina Tambets, Ene Metspalu, Aivar Kriiska, Eske Willerslev, Toomas Kivisild, Mait Metspalu

Posted 02 Mar 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/112714 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.022)

Farming-based economies appear relatively late in Northeast Europe and the extent to which they involve genetic ancestry change is still poorly understood. Here we present the analyses of low coverage whole genome sequence data from five hunter-gatherers and five farmers of Estonia dated to 4,500 to 6,300 years before present. We find evidence of significant differences between the two groups in the composition of autosomal as well as mtDNA, X and Y chromosome ancestries. We find that Estonian hunter-gatherers of Comb Ceramic Culture are closest to Eastern hunter-gatherers. The Estonian first farmers of Corded Ware Culture show high similarity in their autosomes with Steppe Belt Late Neolithic/Bronze Age individuals, Caucasus hunter-gatherers and Iranian farmers while their X chromosomes are most closely related with the European Early Farmers of Anatolian descent. These findings suggest that the shift to intensive cultivation and animal husbandry in Estonia was triggered by the arrival of new people with predominantly Steppe ancestry, but whose ancestors had undergone sex-specific admixture with early farmers with Anatolian ancestry.

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