From Social to Genetic Structures in Central Asia

Raphaëlle Chaix, Lluís Quintana-Murci, Tatyana Hegay, Michael F. Hammer, Zahra Mobasher, Frédéric Austerlitz, Evelyne Heyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Pastoral and farmer populations, who have coexisted in Central Asia since the fourth millennium B.C. [1], present not only different lifestyles and means of subsistence but also various types of social organization. Pastoral populations are organized into so-called descent groups (tribes, clans, and lineages) and practice exogamous marriages (a man chooses a bride in a different lineage or clan). In Central Asia, these descent groups are patrilineal: The children are systematically affiliated with the descent groups of the father. By contrast, farmer populations are organized into families (extended or nuclear) and often establish endogamous marriages with cousins [2-4]. This study aims at better understanding the impact of these differences in lifestyle and social organization on the shaping of genetic diversity. We show that pastoral populations exhibit a substantial loss of Y chromosome diversity in comparison to farmers but that no such a difference is observed at the mitochondrial-DNA level. Our analyses indicate that the dynamics of patrilineal descent groups, which implies different male and female sociodemographic histories, is responsible for these sexually-asymmetric genetic patterns. This molecular signature of the pastoral social organization disappears over a few centuries only after conversion to an agricultural way of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-48
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2007
Externally publishedYes



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'From Social to Genetic Structures in Central Asia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this