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Scientists solve genetic puzzle surrounding Mundas

New
Delhi, March 12: Genetic studies, in recent years, have traced the origins of
majority of population groups in the Indian sub-continent to two ancestral
populations– Ancestral North Indian and Ancestral South Indian. At the same
time, it is seen that sizeable population group of Mundas in central and
northeast India shares genetic ancestry with Southeast Asian populations as
well.

A new
study now has revealed how and when this admixture between Mundas and Southeast
Asian populations took place.

The study has found that genetic makeup of Mundas is a result of interaction that happened two to
four thousand years ago between Indian Dravidian and Southeast Asian
populations. It has also become clear that among Southeast Asian populations,
Mundas are genetically closer to tribes of Malaysian peninsula like Mah Meri and Temuan,
rather than Austroasiatic groups in geographically
closer countries like Vietnam or Cambodia.

Mundas belong to a tribal group which is spread over states in central India. Earlier archaeological, linguistic and genetic studies have shown that they belong to Austroasiatic speakers who are spread over Southeast Asia. Mundas have both the South Asian and Southeast Asian genetic signatures.

The analysis of DNA samples of Mundas and
other population groups in South and Southeast Asia has shown that people from
Laos are the best representative of the Southeast Asian admixture in the Munda
population. The Lao population is responsible for one third genetic
contribution to Munda people in India while the remaining two thirds genetic
component comes from early Dravidians of Kerala – Paniya
or Pulliyar.

Researchers
analysed 102 individual samples from Munda speaking populations in context of
978 other samples from 72 populations mainly from India, Southeast Asia and
East Asia. The international team of researchers was led
by Kai Tatte of the Estonian Biocentre-Institute of Genomics of University of
Tartu, Estonia. The results of the study have been published in journal Scientific Reports.

“The best modern proxies for the source populations of Munda that went through admixture are Lao people from Laos and Dravidian speakers from Keralite Dravidians (Paniya or Pulliyar). It is also clear that initial Dravidians with whom the incoming Southeast Asians admixed had a smaller West Eurasian genetic component than the present day Pulliyar or Paniya groups,” explained said Ajai K Pathak, a member of the research team at University of Tartu, Estonia, while speaking to India Science Wire.

The study also included Dr Gyaneshwer Chaubey, an expert on South Asian population genetics at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU). “To me, the most fascinating finding is the timeline of Munads arrival in India. Our previous study had showed that the Mundas arrived from Southeast Asia and the migration was male-mediated, but it did not pinpoint their location and time of arrival. Now we were able to pinpoint their cradle to Laos and time of arrival to last 3-4 thousand years,” Dr Chaubey told India Science Wire.

The
research team included scientists from Estonia, India, Italy, Australia,
Vietnam, Bangladesh, Israel and Belgium.

By By
Dinesh C Sharma

(India Science Wire)

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