Dravidian & Korku People Of India Maybe Descendants Of Middle/Early Upper Paleolithic Settlers

The mitochondrial macrohaplogroup M is a descendant of the macrohaplogroup L3, a really old East African haplogroup thought to have originated around 104,000 years ago. Sun et al., explained that within haplogroup M, lie many smaller haplogroups of which the M2 lineage is thought to be the oldest mitochondrial lineage in India. You can check out this preliminary assessment in this Molecular Biology and Evolution paper, “The Dazzling Array of Basal Branches in the mtDNA Macrohaplogroup M from India as Inferred from Complete Genomes.” Ever since the Sun et al. paper, people have wondered why M2 is way more prevalent in southern India. One of the leading hypothesis is that M2 may represent the phylogenetic signature of early settlers. And by early we’re talking 50,000 years old.

To investigate the impact of Middle/Early Upper Paleolithic settlers on the genetic diversity of current populations in India, a dozen or so Indian academics sequenced 72 mitochondrial genomes from 16 different populations in India. Their results are published in this provisional BMC Evolutionary Biology paper, The earliest settlers’ antiquity and evolutionary history of Indian populations: evidence from M2 mtDNA lineage

Except for the Sonowal Kachari, the M2 lineage is completely absent from tribes in northeast India. Whereas in southern India, the Kuruba show a high frequency of M2 signatures at 39%. Furthermore, M2 signatures are found in high frequencies of Dravidian and in Korku, an Austro-Asiatic tribe.

Upon sequencing the mitochondrial genomes of 72 people, the authors identified a deep split between two sister clades, M2a and M2b. M2a differs from M2b in a transitional mutation at positions 7961 and 12,810. Subclades within M2a, which I won’t get into, differ from subclades in M2b — one that shows late branching patterns.

Coalescent estimates were determined, and the authors figured that the founder age for the m2 mtDNA lineage is 50,000 years old, plus or mine a couple thousand. M2a and M2b are believed to have diverged around 21,600 years ago.

The authors next investigated the effects of population decline due to the glaciation. They were able to determine a rapid population growth from 7,000 years ago to 3,000 years ago — with a 500 year decline between 1,000 years ago and 1,500 years ago — which I think could be in part because of the first wave of black plague that swept thru Asia, Europe and Africa.

Because of the persistence of the M2 lineage and its alignment to the L3 macrohaplogroup, the authors believe that the Dravidian people and the Korku represent modern variants of earliest settlers of India. That’s because these people do not exhibit such a high frequency of Eurasian specific mtDNA haplogroups, as other Indian population. Furthermore, there are not any significant M2 signatures in Tibetan nor Burmese people, suggesting that these populations have remain relatively isolated both genetically and linguistically.

    Kumar, S., Padmanabham, P.b., Ravuri, R.R., Uttaravalli, K., Koneru, P., Mukherjee, P.A., Das, B., Kotal, M., Xaviour, D., Saheb, S.Y., Rao, V.r. (2008). The earliest settlers’ antiquity and evolutionary history of Indian populations: evidence from M2 mtDNA lineage. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 8(1), 230. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-8-230

4 thoughts on “Dravidian & Korku People Of India Maybe Descendants Of Middle/Early Upper Paleolithic Settlers

  1. first, i would say that this is just an add-on to what toomas kisivild et. al. have been claiming.

    second, i think we should be a bit cautious about 72 mtDNA lineages. after all, uniparental and such.

    finally, just a minor precision quibble, but these are *dravidian speaking* *tribals* so the genetics here is representative of tribal people (those outside the caste system), not the vast majority of dravidian speakers (tamils, malayalis, telugus and kannadas). there is some philological evidence that many of these tribal people spoke different languages earlier, and that they picked up dravidian only in the last 10,000 years (based on some of the words in dravidian which seem to indicate that this group spread with agriculture, and the fact that elamite in khuzistan might have been a dravidian-related language).

  2. I have researched my genealogy quite extensively and suspected my maternal 8th g-grandmother to have been from Indian slave descent, assimilated into colonial Dutch culture in the late 1600’s. I had my mtDNA tested by the Genographic Project, hoping this would indicate an approximate geographic area of origin, but the answer I got was very vague – haplogroup M* with 3 variations from CRS in HVR1 at 16184T, 16223T & 16519C. So although it has confirmed my suspicions in broad terms, it has so far not been very helpful at all beyond this. It was a bit disappointing. Nevertheless, I am trying to make as much sense of it as I can. I am beginning to understand that of these 3 variations only 16184T may be of little but maybe some value in terms of trying to identify a subhaplogroup. In which sub-haplogroups of M* does 16184 occur, and if so can it be traced to a geographic area, a bit more specific than a band stretching part-way round the globe from Arabia to Australia? Is there a website where one can see all the subhaplogroups of M* listed with each ones charateristic identifying variations?

  3. jesus christ, dravidian speaking tribe does not mean racially dravidian. in order to find out the genetics of dravidians use high caste south indians, for they are the most endogamous population hence probably having least australoid admixture from pariahs.

  4. This is really interesting research. I am curious though about the link to Dravidian languages since Korku is classified as an Austro-Asiatic language, related to Santali.

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