Genetic diversity on the Comoros Islands shows early seafaring as major determinant of human biocultural evolution in the Western Indian Ocean.
ABSTRACT: The Comoros Islands are situated off the coast of East Africa, at the northern entrance of the channel of Mozambique. Contemporary Comoros society displays linguistic, cultural and religious features that are indicators of interactions between African, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian (SEA) populations. Influences came from the north, brought by the Arab and Persian traders whose maritime routes extended to Madagascar by 700-900 AD. Influences also came from the Far East, with the long-distance colonisation by Austronesian seafarers that reached Madagascar 1500 years ago. Indeed, strong genetic evidence for a SEA, but not a Middle Eastern, contribution has been found on Madagascar, but no genetic trace of either migration has been shown to exist in mainland Africa. Studying genetic diversity on the Comoros Islands could therefore provide new insights into human movement in the Indian Ocean. Here, we describe Y chromosomal and mitochondrial genetic variation in 577 Comorian islanders. We have defined 28 Y chromosomal and 9 mitochondrial lineages. We show the Comoros population to be a genetic mosaic, the result of tripartite gene flow from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. A distinctive profile of African haplogroups, shared with Madagascar, may be characteristic of coastal sub-Saharan East Africa. Finally, the absence of any maternal contribution from Western Eurasia strongly implicates male-dominated trade and religion as the drivers of gene flow from the North. The Comoros provides a first view of the genetic makeup of coastal East Africa.
Project description:Human settlement of Madagascar traces back to the beginning of the first millennium with the arrival of Austronesians from Southeast Asia, followed by migrations from Africa and the Middle East. Remains of these different cultural, genetic, and linguistic legacies are still present in Madagascar and other islands of the Indian Ocean. The close relationship between human migration and the introduction and spread of infectious diseases, a well-documented phenomenon, is particularly evident for the causative agent of leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae. In this study, we used whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and molecular dating to characterize the genetic background and retrace the origin of the M. leprae strains circulating in Madagascar (n = 30) and the Comoros (n = 3), two islands where leprosy is still considered a public health problem and monitored as part of a drug resistance surveillance program. Most M. leprae strains (97%) from Madagascar and Comoros belonged to a new genotype as part of branch 1, closely related to single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) type 1D, named 1D-Malagasy. Other strains belonged to the genotype 1A (3%). We sequenced 39 strains from nine other countries, which, together with previously published genomes, amounted to 242 genomes that were used for molecular dating. Specific SNP markers for the new 1D-Malagasy genotype were used to screen samples from 11 countries and revealed this genotype to be restricted to Madagascar, with the sole exception being a strain from Malawi. The overall analysis thus ruled out a possible introduction of leprosy by the Austronesian settlers and suggests a later origin from East Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia.
Project description:At the dawn of the second millennium, the expansion of the Indian Ocean trading network aligned with the emergence of an outward-oriented community along the East African coast to create a cosmopolitan cultural and trading zone known as the Swahili Corridor. On the basis of analyses of new genome-wide genotyping data and uniparental data in 276 individuals from coastal Kenya and the Comoros islands, along with large-scale genetic datasets from the Indian Ocean rim, we reconstruct historical population dynamics to show that the Swahili Corridor is largely an eastern Bantu genetic continuum. Limited gene flows from the Middle East can be seen in Swahili and Comorian populations at dates corresponding to historically documented contacts. However, the main admixture event in southern insular populations, particularly Comorian and Malagasy groups, occurred with individuals from Island Southeast Asia as early as the 8<sup>th</sup> century, reflecting an earlier dispersal from this region. Remarkably, our results support recent archaeological and linguistic evidence-based suggestions that the Comoros archipelago was the earliest location of contact between Austronesian and African populations in the Swahili Corridor.
Project description:We examined patterns of genetic variation in Rousettus madagascariensis from Madagascar and R. obliviosus from the Comoros (Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mohéli). Genetic distances among individuals on the basis of 1,130 base pairs of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (Cytb) locus were estimated from specimens collected from 17 sites on Madagascar, 3 sites on Grande Comore, 3 sites on Anjouan, and 2 sites on Mohéli. We observed little variation in Madagascar and nearshore island samples (maximum 1.1%) and interisland Comoros samples (maximum 1.8%). In contrast, pairwise distances between different sampled sites on Madagascar and the Comoros varied from 8.5% to 13.2%. For 131 Malagasy animals, 69 unique haplotypes were recovered with 86 variable sites, and for 44 Comorian individuals, 17 unique haplotypes were found with 30 variable sites. No haplotype was shared between Madagascar and the Comoros, adding to previous morphological evidence that these 2 populations should be considered separate species. Cytb data showed that Rousettus populations of Madagascar (including nearshore islands) and the Comoros are respectively monophyletic and display no geographic structure in haplotype diversity, and that R. madagascariensis and R. obliviosus are strongly supported as sister to each other relative to other Rousettus species. Genotypic data from 6 microsatellite loci confirm lack of geographic structure in either of the 2 species. In pairwise tests of population differentiation, the only significant values were between samples from the Comoro Islands and Madagascar (including nearshore islands). Estimates of current and historical demographic parameters support population expansion in both the Comoros and Madagascar. These data suggest a more recent and rapid demographic expansion in Madagascar in comparison with greater population stability on the Comoros. On the basis of available evidence, open-water crossings approaching 300 km seem rarely traversed by Rousettus, and, if successful, can result in genetic isolation and subsequent differentiation.
Project description:The mosquito Anopheles gambiae s.s. is distributed across most of sub-Saharan Africa and is of major scientific and public health interest for being an African malaria vector. Here we present population genomic analyses of 111 specimens sampled from west to east Africa, including the first whole genome sequences from oceanic islands, the Comoros. Genetic distances between populations of A. gambiae are discordant with geographic distances but are consistent with a stepwise migration scenario in which the species increases its range from west to east Africa through consecutive founder events over the last ~200,000 years. Geological barriers like the Congo River basin and the East African rift seem to play an important role in shaping this process. Moreover, we find a high degree of genetic isolation of populations on the Comoros, confirming the potential of these islands as candidate sites for potential field trials of genetically engineered mosquitoes for malaria control.
Project description:Although situated ?400 km from the east coast of Africa, Madagascar exhibits cultural, linguistic, and genetic traits from both Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa. The settlement history remains contentious; we therefore used a grid-based approach to sample at high resolution the genomic diversity (including maternal lineages, paternal lineages, and genome-wide data) across 257 villages and 2,704 Malagasy individuals. We find a common Bantu and Austronesian descent for all Malagasy individuals with a limited paternal contribution from Europe and the Middle East. Admixture and demographic growth happened recently, suggesting a rapid settlement of Madagascar during the last millennium. However, the distribution of African and Asian ancestry across the island reveals that the admixture was sex biased and happened heterogeneously across Madagascar, suggesting independent colonization of Madagascar from Africa and Asia rather than settlement by an already admixed population. In addition, there are geographic influences on the present genomic diversity, independent of the admixture, showing that a few centuries is sufficient to produce detectable genetic structure in human populations.
Project description:The combination of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine is recommended for use as intermittent preventive treatment of malaria during pregnancy and is deployed in Africa. The emergence and the spread of resistant parasites are major threats to such an intervention. We have characterized the Plasmodium falciparum dhfr (pfdhfr) haplotypes and flanking microsatellites in 322 P. falciparum isolates collected from the Comoros Islands and Madagascar. One hundred fifty-six (48.4%) carried the wild-type pfdhfr allele, 19 (5.9%) carried the S108N single-mutation allele, 30 (9.3%) carried the I164L single-mutation allele, 114 (35.4%) carried the N51I/C59R/S108N triple-mutation allele, and 3 (1.0%) carried the N51I/C59R/S108N/I164L quadruple-mutation allele. Microsatellite analysis showed the introduction from the Comoros Islands of the ancestral pfdhfr triple mutant allele of Asian origin and its spread in Madagascar. Evidence for the emergence on multiple occasions of the I164L single-mutation pfdhfr allele in Madagascar was also obtained. Thus, the conditions required to generate mutants with quadruple mutations are met in Madagascar, representing a serious threat to current drug policy.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The island of Madagascar and surrounding volcanic and coralline islands are considered to form a biodiversity hotspot with large numbers of unique taxa. The origin of this endemic fauna can be explained by two different factors: vicariance or over-water-dispersal. Deciphering which factor explains the current distributional pattern of a given taxonomic group requires robust phylogenies as well as estimates of divergence times. The lineage of Indian Ocean scops-owls (Otus: Strigidae) includes six or seven species that are endemic to Madagascar and portions of the Comoros and Seychelles archipelagos; little is known about the species limits, biogeographic affinities and relationships to each other. In the present study, using DNA sequence data gathered from six loci, we examine the biogeographic history of the Indian Ocean scops-owls. We also compare the pattern and timing of colonization of the Indian Ocean islands by scops-owls with divergence times already proposed for other bird taxa. RESULTS:Our analyses revealed that Indian Ocean islands scops-owls do not form a monophyletic assemblage: the Seychelles Otus insularis is genetically closer to the South-East Asian endemic O. sunia than to species from the Comoros and Madagascar. The Pemba Scops-owls O. pembaensis, often considered closely related to, if not conspecific with O. rutilus of Madagascar, is instead closely related to the African mainland O. senegalensis. Relationships among the Indian Ocean taxa from the Comoros and Madagascar are unresolved, despite the analysis of over 4000 bp, suggesting a diversification burst after the initial colonization event. We also highlight one case of putative back-colonization to the Asian mainland from an island ancestor (O. sunia). Our divergence date estimates, using a Bayesian relaxed clock method, suggest that all these events occurred during the last 3.6 myr; albeit colonization of the Indian Ocean islands were not synchronous, O. pembaensis diverged from O. senegalensis about 1.7 mya while species from Madagascar and the Comoro diverged from their continental sister-group about 3.6 mya. We highlight that our estimates coincide with estimates of diversification from other bird lineages. CONCLUSION:Our analyses revealed the occurrence of multiple synchronous colonization events of the Indian Ocean islands by scops-owls, at a time when faunistic exchanges involving Madagascar was common as a result of lowered sea-level that would have allowed the formation of stepping-stone islands. Patterns of diversification that emerged from the scops-owls data are: 1) a star-like pattern concerning the order of colonization of the Indian Ocean islands and 2) the high genetic distinctiveness among all Indian Ocean taxa, reinforcing their recognition as distinct species.
Project description:The colonization of Madagascar by Austronesian-speaking people during AD 50-500 represents the most westerly point of the greatest diaspora in prehistory. A range of economically important plants and animals may have accompanied the Austronesians. Domestic chickens (Gallus gallus) are found in Madagascar, but it is unclear how they arrived there. Did they accompany the initial Austronesian-speaking populations that reached Madagascar via the Indian Ocean or were they late arrivals with Arabian and African sea-farers? To address this question, we investigated the mitochondrial DNA control region diversity of modern chickens sampled from around the Indian Ocean rim (Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and Madagascar). In contrast to the linguistic and human genetic evidence indicating dual African and Southeast Asian ancestry of the Malagasy people, we find that chickens in Madagascar only share a common ancestor with East Africa, which together are genetically closer to South Asian chickens than to those in Southeast Asia. This suggests that the earliest expansion of Austronesian-speaking people across the Indian Ocean did not successfully introduce chickens to Madagascar. Our results further demonstrate the complexity of the translocation history of introduced domesticates in Madagascar.
Project description:The Austronesian dispersal across the Indonesian Ocean to Madagascar and the Comoros has been well documented, but in an unexplained anomaly, few to no traces have been found of the Austronesian expansion in East Africa or the Arabian Peninsula. To revisit this peculiarity, we surveyed the Western Indian Ocean rim populations to identify potential Austronesian genetic ancestry. We generated full mitochondrial DNA genomes and genome-wide genotyping data for these individuals and compared them with the Banjar, the Indonesian source population of the westward Austronesian dispersal. We find strong support for Asian genetic contributions to maternal lineages and autosomal variation in modern day Somalia and Yemen. Surprisingly, this input reveals two apparently different geographic origins and timings of admixture for the Austronesian contact; one at a very early phase (likely associated with the early Austronesian dispersals), and a later movement dating to the end of nineteenth century. These Austronesian gene flows come, respectively, from Madagascar and directly from an unidentified location in Island Southeast Asia. This result reveals a far more complex dynamic of Austronesian dispersals through the Western Indian Ocean than has previously been understood and suggests that Austronesian movements within the Indian Ocean may have been part of a lengthy process, probably continuing well into the modern era.
Project description:With globalization the Western honey bee has become a nearly cosmopolitan species, but it was originally restricted to the Old World. This renowned model of biodiversity has diverged into five evolutionary lineages and several geographic "subspecies." If Apis mellifera unicolor is indubitably an African subspecies endemic to Madagascar, its relationship with honey bees from three archipelagos in the southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO) hotspot of biodiversity is misunderstood. We compared recent mtDNA diversity data to an original characterization of the nuclear diversity from honey bees in the Mascarenes and Comoros archipelagos, using 14 microsatellites, but also additional mtDNA tRNALeu-cox2 analysis. Our sampling offers the most comprehensive dataset for the SWIO populations with a total of 3,270 colonies from 10 islands compared with 855 samples from Madagascar, 113 from Africa, and 138 from Europe. Comprehensive mitochondrial screening confirmed that honey bees from La Réunion, Mauritius, and Comoros archipelagos are mainly of African origin (88.1% out of 2,746 colonies) and that coexistence with European lineages occurs only in the Mascarenes. PCA, Bayesian, and genetic differentiation analysis showed that African colonies are not significantly distinct on each island, but have diversified among islands and archipelagos. FST levels progressively decreased in significance from European and African continental populations, to SWIO insular and continental populations, and finally among islands from the same archipelago. Among African populations, Madagascar shared a nuclear background with and was most closely related to SWIO island populations (except Rodrigues). Only Mauritius Island presented clear cytoplasmic disequilibrium and genetic structure characteristic of an admixed population undergoing hybridization, in this case, between A. m. unicolor and A. m. ligustica, A. m. carnica and A. m. mellifera-like individuals. Finally, global genetic clustering analysis helped to better depict the colonization and introduction pattern of honey bee populations in these archipelagos.