here’s a really neat chart! (click on image for LARGER view. should open in new tab/window.):

what does it mean? well…

some very clever researchers/geneticists took a look for “runs of homozygosity” (roh) in the genomes of the individuals in the human genome diversity project (hgdp) — that’s 1043 individuals from 51 different populations. “runs of homozygosity” are stretches in the genome where identical dna was inherited from each parent. if you inbreed, you’re gonna have a greater number of longer runs of homozygosity in your genome than if you don’t.

apart from being just plain fun, sex shuffles up genomes from one generation to the next (presumably for some good reason or another). if you were to clone yourself, your descendants would have (pretty much) the same exact genome as you. if you were to mate with your mother or your sister (i know — ewwww!), your descendants would have different genomes from you, but they’d have lots of roh in their genomes ’cause their dna came from you and someone with whom you share a lot dna in common. the farther out you mate, the less homozygosity there’s likely to be.

you might also have lots of roh in your genome if you come from a population that has little genetic diversity — ’cause maybe your ancestors went through some sort of bottleneck or something.

inbreeding with close relatives — like marrying your first- or second-cousins (consanguineous matings) — leads to long roh since you share so much of your dna with your closest family members. endogamous mating — just mating within your population but not your close cousins — also leads to roh, but not ones as long as mating with your close relatives. you share dna with others in your population (say your clan or your ethnic group), but not so much of exactly the same dna or genes in certain stretches as with your closer relatives. a population will little genetic diversity, but that does not inbreed, will have lots of short roh — they share a lot of stretches of dna in common, but all of the outbreeding shuffles up the genomes within the population.

so that’s:

- long roh = inbreeding, probably consanguineous (first-/second-cousin matings)
- medium roh = endogmaous mating within a population
- short roh = little genetic diversity in the population probably from an event like a population bottleneck

i’m oversimplifying, but that’s the gist of it.

so what did the researchers find when they looked at the 51 populations in the hgdp (see chart)?

- LOTS of short roh (1-2 Mb) within populations from oceania and central/south america, probably because those populations went through bottlenecks. the people from oceania have low amounts of long roh (>16 Mb), which means that they don’t inbreed closely much. however, the people from central/south america have the highest amount of long roh of all the groups, so that’s means they must inbreed closely a LOT.

- central/south asians, west asians, east asians, europeans and africans don’t have huge amounts of short roh — at least not compared to the folks in oceania and the americas. no big bottlenecks there. and africans, in fact, have the fewest short roh.

- central/south asians and west asians have pretty high amounts of roh in all of the middle ranges and the highest long roh after the native american populations. this indicates significant amounts of endogamy and close relative marriages (but we already knew that).

- the groups with the lowest amounts of long roh are the europeans, africans and east asians — in that order. in other words, it appears as though, of these three groups, africans and europeans inbreed more closely (first- or second-cousin marriage, say) than east asians.

if you’ve been following along, you know that’s not what hbd chick expected. i thought that east asians would’ve had more short roh than europeans ’cause they have a fairly recent history of close marriages. hmmmm….

i checked to see which populations of europeans are included in the hdgp (you can find a list in the article’s supplemental material here [opens pdf]) and they are: adygeis, basques, french folks, italians, orcadians, russians, sardinians and tuscans. apart from the french and the tuscans, all of these groups have recent (or current) histories of consanguineous or endogamous mating practices (see Inbreeding in Europe series below in left-hand column for more details), so they are not a fully representative sample of europeans. unfortunately, “core” europe, which contains the most outbred populations in europe, is not included in the hgdp and, therefore, not in this study.


still — this is interesting stuff! genetics. cool! i’m going to post more about this ’cause, for one thing, it should be possible to drill down further into these populations to compare them more specifically (there are some data available in the supplemental materials). so, more anon…!

thanks to prof. harpending for pointing out this article! (^_^)

*update 08/20: see also runs of homozygosity again

(note: comments do not require an email. lesson one.)

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