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‘Ancestors Of Some Nepalese Ethnic Groups Came From India, Burma, Tibet’

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By: Subham Tiwari
Updated: October 19, 2022 10:10
Research team analyzed mtDNA sequences of 999 Nepalese and compared data with 38,622 published mtDNA sequences from the rest of the world.
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The maternal ancestry of Nepal is a mixture of South Asian and East Asian populations, as per an international study, which also said that some ethnic groups — especially Newar and Magar — derived their ancestry from Myanmar, Tibet, and India.

A team, led by K Thangaraj, director of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)-Hyderabad, studied the maternal ancestry of the Nepalese population by using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variations from different ethnic groups.

The results were published in the journal of Human Genetics on October 15.

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The Tibetan plateau and high mountain ranges of Nepal are one of the most challenging geographical regions inhabited by modern humans. While much of the ethnographic and population-based genetic studies were carried out to investigate the Tibetan and Sherpa highlanders, little is known about the demographic processes that led to the colonization of the hilly areas of Nepal, as per the CCMB.

The research team, which had some members from Nepal, analyzed mtDNA sequences of 999 Nepalese and compared data with 38,622 published mtDNA sequences from the rest of the world.

Our analysis revealed that the genomic landscapes of prehistoric Himalayan settlers of Nepal were similar to that of the low-altitude extant Nepalese (LAN), especially Newar and Magar, but differ from contemporary high-altitude Sherpas.

The study also showed that these ethnic groups share a genetic affinity with the Indian population, Dr Thangaraj told The New Indian.

“It is quite possible that the ancestors of these ethnic groups migrated to Nepal from India and other South and South East Asian countries. The study also shows that South Asians and South East Asians have been co-existing in a small region and keeping it more diverse,” Dr Thangaraj said.

The study argues that Nepalese falling under the LAN category might have derived their East Eurasian ancestry mainly from low-altitude Tibeto-Burmans, who likely have migrated from East Asia and assimilated across the Eastern Himalayas extended from Eastern Nepal to the North-East of India, Bhutan, Tibet and Northern Myanmar.

The migration could have happened due to trade and some other reasons. “The region could have possibly been a trading point,” he said.

“The ancestors of these Nepalese groups migrated to Nepal around a few thousand years ago, which is very new in comparison to the Indian migration history,” Dr Thangaraj further stated.

The study provides a step forward in dissecting the complexity of the East Asian mtDNA landscape of populations residing in the south of the Himalayas, it said.

The study argues that Nepalese falling under the LAN category might have derived their East Eurasian ancestry mainly from low-altitude Tibeto-Burmans, who likely have migrated from East Asia and assimilated across the Eastern Himalayas extended from Eastern Nepal to the North-East of India, Bhutan, Tibet and Northern Myanmar.

The migration could have happened due to trade and some other reasons. “The region could have possibly been a trading point,” he said.

“The ancestors of these Nepalese groups migrated to Nepal around a few thousand years ago, which is very new in comparison to the Indian migration history,” Dr Thangaraj further stated.

The study provides a step forward in dissecting the complexity of the East Asian mtDNA landscape of populations residing in the south of the Himalayas, it said.

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