Science Society & Culture

Lakshadweep has genetic link with Maldives, India

Hyderabad: A strong genetic link has been found between the islanders of Lakshadweep and the inhabitants of the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, with minor influences from East and West Eurasia.

The genetic study was carried out by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and published in Scientific Reports on May 6 to understand the peopling of Lakshadweep.

An analysis of 557 individuals from eight major islands for mitochondrial DNA and 166 individuals for Y chromosome markers was undertaken by scientists from the region. A strong paternal and maternal link was found between Maldives, Sri Lanka and India. It was also found that a small group of people share links with East and West Eurasia.

Lakshadweep, which is located between Africa and the south-western part of India, has been the route of early human migration from Africa to Andaman and Australia. Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj, senior author and chief scientist of the study at CCMB, explained, “We expected the presence of genetic signatures of ancient people such as Andamanese and Australian aboriginals. We found maternal ancestry closer to South Indian populations, whereas the paternal ancestry was more common to those in the Maldives and North India. The first genetic data suggest that the majority of human ancestry in Lakshadweep is largely derived from South Asia with minor influences from East and West Eurasia.”

The authors studied eight major islands of Lakshadweep, namely, Agatti, Andorth, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kiltan and Minicoy.

Dr Gyaneshwer Chaubey, one of the senior authors of the study and professor at Banaras Hindu University, said that “even after regular historic interactions with people from different regions of the world, it is extremely interesting that we could see an only limited number of founders.”

The first genetic study has also brought to light that despite the islands being a global maritime destination, most of the genes are only from these three countries.

Dr Thangaraj says the only island which has a diverse genetic population is Minicoy. This means that it was a popular destination for maritime sailors and hence the genes are from different regions in the populace.

Dr Rakesh K. Mishra, the director, CCMB, said that this genetic study on Lakshadweep islanders would lead to a study of their health profiles in the near future.

The total population of the archipelago is approximately 65,000.

It is not clear when the first human settlement occurred.

According to surviving historical documents, Buddhism came to these islands in the 6th century BC, Islam in 661 AD brought by Arabs, and the Cholas ruled the islands in the 11th century AD, the Portuguese in 16th century, Ali Rajahs in the 17th Century, Tipu Sultan in the 18th century and finally it came under the British Raj in the 19th Century.

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