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Friday, May 24, 2013

Maldivian Ancestry in light of Genetics

Maldivians have lot of questions about their roots or where they came from. As a Maldivian, I also find it very interesting to know about the relationship we have with the rest of the greater world.
One fine area where we might get an answer about our roots would be the scientific field of  population genetics. So having had this curiosity, I have searched different websites and came across a study done by a respected institution about the Maldivian people.
After going through various  information contained in the research paper  which was about the population genetics of the Maldivians, I realized that I have now got an answer about the ancestry of the Maldivians. The paper was based on a research completed by the Leiden University  and which  was  initially published on American Journal of Human Genetics.

To understand ancestry, we must understand a scientific term used by geneticists which is called “haplogroup’’.

Haplogroup is a genetic marker that passes from parents to offsprings.  MT DNA or mitochondrial haplogroup is a signature that passes from mother to offsprings and Y chromosome DNA haplogroup is  marker that passes from father to offsprings. So by analyzing the haplogroups , geneticists would be able to identify genetic ancestry of a population.

What is mitochondrial DNA haplogroups or Mt DNA  haplogroups?

In human genetics, a human mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is a haplogroup defined by differences in human mitochondrial DNA. Haplogroups are used to represent the major branch points on the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree. Understanding the evolutionary path of the female lineage has helped population geneticists trace the matrilineal inheritance of modern humans back to human origins in Africa and the subsequent spread across the globe.

What is Y-DNA chromosome haplogroup?

Human Y chromosomes are male-specific sex chromosomes; nearly all humans that possess a Y chromosome will be morphologically male. Although Y chromosomes are situated in the cell nucleus and paired with X chromosomes, they only recombine with the X chromosome at the ends of the Y chromosome; the remaining 95% of the Y chromosome does not recombine. Therefore the Y chromosome and any mutations that arise in it are passed on from father to son in a direct male line of descent. This means the Y chromosome and mtDNA share specific properties.

Y-DNA of Maldives compared with other regions.

So lets look at Y-DNA Haplogroups from Maldives

J2 - Possible origin is Caucasus ( 22%  of Maldivians carry J2 gene )

Map indicating the possible origin of Y chormosome J2 haplogroup 

L North India or Pakistan (13% North Indians)
H  South Indian Tamil,(15% Tamils or Dravidians)
R2a South Asia ( 12% south Asians , found in equal frequencies both in south and north India)
R1a1a – We are 25% Indo Europeans. The most dominant haplo group.

Indo Aryan specific haplo group which introduced  Indo Aryan language of Dhivehi into Maldives. So this is also a strong proof that we have an inseparable ethnic connection with mainland subcontinent.

M20: 13 % of Maldivians got this Y-Chromosome haplogroup and obviously from the map below shows us where could it had possibly come to Maldives.
The highest percentage of haplogroup L is found among the Kalasha people in Northern Pakistan, which is still only 23%. Next goes Pakistan and North Western India where the percentage is only about 7-10% (for some reason chechens in Northern Caucasus have about 10% of that haplogroup too). The whole area where haplogroup L is somewhat significant correlates with the extent of the Harappa Civilization (Indus Valley Civilization).

L haplo Group Distribution Map,13% Maldivians belong to this genetic group

Maldivian movie stars (second generation star kids)

(H) haplogroup (M69).

This haplogroup is south Indian specific haplogroup which  presents in Maldives  less than 10% however in Addu it has prevalence of about 15% and in Fuvah Mulah about 12%. This haplogroup implies that strong presence of Tamil and Malayalam blood in the population of Maldives. M69 is also found significantly in European Roma people. Our genetic relationship with out-casted and persecuted Roma people of Romania is evident here.
Roma people left India to escape  wars and persecution. It is believed a group of Roma people arrived  Maldives and settled in many islands of Maldives.
Y-DNA haplogroup 'H' distribution map of the world in which 10% of Maldivians have this genetic sign.

M17 Haplogroup(R1a1a)
This is the haplogroup whic had conquered the Indian subcontinent and spread the Sanskrit languages in South Asia. Most of the people from central and north of India have this mutation marker in their Y-chromosomes.
What is our relationship with this haplogroup? This haplogroup is most dominant and most prevalent haplogroup in the population of the Maldives.

More than 25% Maldivians carry this marker of y-chromosome mutation. So  this fact reveals the reason why the Maldivian language has a Sanskrit foundation. ( Pink areas of the below map shows our genes).

 It also reveals that Maldivians did not adopt an Indo Ayran language through a system of cultural massacre,  we inherited the Indo Aryan language because  25% of  our forefathers spoke a Sanskrit based  language. 

So where did this R1a1 gene originate? This is a mutation originated in central Asia 30000 years ago and people who possessed this mutation populated north India and Eastern Europe. This is the Indo Aryan haplo group and this would be the reason Dhivehi language is an Insular Indo Aryan language.

25% of Maldivian populatoin belong to R1a1 Y DNA haplogroup. Map shows Y DNA haplogroup distribution in the world.

So Who are the Maldive Islanders?

Maldivians are by and large  South Asians while Maldivians have a diverse origin similar to rest of South Asians. The genetic picture of the Maldivians are  clear.

After doing bit of research  , it seems that Maldivians have west Asian mito mitochondrial DNA.

There is high frequency of Indo-European ' r1a1' haplogroup observed among the Fuva Mulak people.

History reveals that in 1573 AD, an Egyptian military ship was attacked and sunk in Indian ocean by  Portuguese navy. At that time , Egypt was ruled by Mameluke warriors from cental asia  and they had their origin in central Asian steppes. They probably had Indo-European haplo-group r1a1 which is a common genetic in-print across central Asian Steppes.

 The commander of the Egyptian fleet which sailed across Indian ocean to fight Portuguese was then son of the King of Egypt. During a naval ambush of Egyptian fleet,  Mameluke prince who was on board escaped  and he swam across to a Maldive  island called Fuva Mulak.

 Mamluke prince  later got married to a woman from the  island and had decedents. This could be the reason why there is high frequency of Indo European gene in this island.

So, the Maldives is a genetic melting pot. This is also the reason why the Maldives has high frequency of thalasemia.

People in the national stadium with AKON, the world famous pop star
Maldivian Health minister in white attire

Maldivians rejoicing the birth of democracy (Maldives new dawn has been turned  into a bubble)

Despite ongoing acculturation of Dhivehi culture, many Maldivians love music
Maldivians in Arab dress code