Fulani from Cameroon show ancestry similar to Afroasiatic speakers from East Africa

sahel-region-fulani

Open access African evolutionary history inferred from whole genome sequence data of 44 indigenous African populations, by Fan et al. Genome Biology (2019) 20:82.

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine):

Introduction

To extend our knowledge of patterns of genomic diversity in Africa, we generated high coverage (> 30×) genome sequencing data from 43 geographically diverse Africans originating from 22 ethnic groups, representing a broad array of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and geographic diversity (Additional file 1: Table S1). These include a number of populations of anthropological interest that have never previously been characterized for high-coverage genome sequence diversity such as Afroasiatic-speaking El Molo fishermen and Nilo-Saharan-speaking Ogiek hunter-gatherers (Kenya); Afroasiatic-speaking Aari, Agaw, and Amhara agro-pastoralists (Ethiopia); Niger-Congo-speaking Fulani pastoralists (Cameroon); Nilo-Saharan-speaking Kaba (Central African Republic, CAR); and Laka and Bulala (Chad) among others. We integrated this data with 49 whole genome sequences generated as part of the Simons Genome Diversity Project (SGDP) [14] (…)

afroasiatic-samples
Locations of samples included in this study. Each dot is an individual and the color indicates the language classification

Results and discussion

We found that the CRHG populations from central Africa, including the Mbuti from the Demographic Republic of Congo (DRC), Biaka from the CAR, and Baka, Bakola, and Bedzan from Cameroon, also form a basal lineage in the phylogeny. The other two hunter-gatherer populations, Hadza and Sandawe, living in Tanzania, group with populations from eastern Africa (Fig. 2). The two Nilo-Saharan-speaking populations, the Mursi from southern Ethiopia and the Dinka from southern Sudan, group into a single cluster, which is consistent with archeological data indicating that the migration of Nilo-Saharan populations to eastern Africa originated from a source population in southern Sudan in the last 3000 years [4, 23, 24, 25].

phylogenetic-relationship-africans
Phylogenetic relationship of 44 African and 32 west Eurasian populations determined by a neighbor joining analysis assuming no admixture. Here, the dots of each node represent bootstrap values and the color of each branch indicates language usage of each population. Human_AA human ancestral alleles

The Fulani people are traditionally nomadic pastoralists living across a broad geographic range spanning Sudan, the Sahel, Central, and Western Africa. The Fulani in our study, sampled from Cameroon, clustered with the Afroasiatic-speaking populations in East Africa in the phylogenetic analysis, indicating a potential language replacement from Afroasiatic to Niger-Congo in this population (Fig. 2). Prior studies suggest a complex history of the Fulani; analyses of Y chromosome variation suggest a shared ancestry with Nilo-Saharan and Afroasiatic populations [24], whereas mtDNA indicates a West African origin [26]. An analysis based on autosomal markers found traces of West Eurasian-related ancestry in this population [4], which suggests a North African or East African origin (as North and East Africans also have such ancestry likely related to expansions of farmers and herders from the Near East) and is consistent with the presence at moderate frequency of the −13,910T variant associated with lactose tolerance in European populations [15, 16].

Phylogenetic reconstruction of the relationship of African individuals under a model allowing for migration using TREEMIX [27] largely recapitulates the NJ phylogeny with the exception of the Fulani who cluster near neighboring Niger-Congo-speaking populations with whom they have admixed (Additional file 2: Figure S1). Interestingly, TREEMIX analysis indicates evidence for gene flow between the Hadza and the ancestors of the Ju|‘hoan and Khomani San, supporting genetic, linguistic, and archeological evidence that Khoesan-speaking populations may have originated in Eastern Africa [28, 29, 30].

afroasiatic-niger-congo-admixture
ADMIXTURE analysis of 92 African and 62 West Eurasian individuals. Each bar is an individual and colors represent the proportion of inferred ancestry from K ancestral populations. The bottom bar shows the language classification of each individual. With the increasing of K, the populations are largely grouped by their current language usage

About the Fulani, this is what the referenced study of Y‐chromosome variation among 15 Sudanese populations by Hassan et al. (2008), had to say:

  • Haplogroups A-M13 and B-M60 are present at high frequencies in Nilo-Saharan groups except Nubians, with low frequencies in Afro-Asiatic groups although notable frequencies of B-M60 were found in Hausa (15.6%) and Copts (15.2%).
  • Haplogroup E (four different haplotypes) accounts for the majority (34.4%) of the chromosome and is widespread in the Sudan. E-M78 represents 74.5% of haplogroup E, the highest frequencies observed in Masalit and Fur populations. E-M33 (5.2%) is largely confined to Fulani and Hausa, whereas E-M2 is restricted to Hausa. E-M215 was found to occur more in Nilo-Saharan rather than Afro-Asiatic speaking groups.
  • In contrast, haplogroups F-M89, I-M170, J-12f2, and JM172 were found to be more frequent in the Afro-Asiatic speaking groups. J-12f2 and J-M172 represents 94% and 6%, respectively, of haplogroup J with high frequencies among Nubians, Copts, and Arabs.
  • Haplogroup K-M9 is restricted to Hausa and Gaalien with low frequencies and is absent in Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo.
  • Haplogroup R-M173 appears to be the most frequent haplogroup in Fulani, and haplogroup R-P25 has the highest frequency in Hausa and Copts and is present at lower frequencies in north, east, and western Sudan.
  • Haplogroups A-M51, A-M23, D-M174, H-M52, L-M11, OM175, and P-M74 were completely absent from the populations analyzed.
fulfulde-fulani-language
Image modified from “Fulfulde Language Family Report” Author: Annette Harrison; Cartographer: Irene Tucker; SIL International 2003.

This is what David Reich will talk about in the seminar Insights into language expansions from ancient DNA:

In this talk, I will describe how the new science of genome-wide ancient DNA can provide insights into past spreads of language and culture. I will discuss five examples: (1) the spread of Indo-European languages to Europe and South Asia in association with Steppe pastoralist ancestry, (2) the spread of Austronesian languages to the open Pacific islands in association with Taiwanese aboriginal-associated ancestry, (3) the spread of Austroasiatic languages through southeast Asia in association with the characteristic ancestry type that is also represented in western Indonesia suggesting that these languages were once widespread there, (4) the spread of Afroasiastic languages through in East Africa as part of the Pastoral Neolithic farming expansion, and (5) the spread of Na-Dene languages in North America in association with Proto-Paleoeskimo ancestry. I will highlight the ways that ancient DNA can meaningfully contribute to our understanding of language expansions—increasing the plausibility of some scenarios while decreasing the plausibility of others—while emphasizing that with genetic data by itself we can never definitively determine what languages ancient people spoke.

EDIT (3 MAY 2019): Apparently, there was not much to take from the talk:

neolithic-pastoralist-africa
Pastoralist Neolithic in Africa, through a pale-green Sahelo-Sudanian steppe corridor. See full map.

This seminar (and maybe some new paper on the Neolithic expansion in Africa) could shed light on population movements that may be related to the spread of Afroasiatic dialects. Until now, it seems that Bantu peoples have been more interesting for linguistics and archaeology, and South and East Africans for anthropology.

Archaeology in Africa appears to be in its infancy, as is population genomics. From the latest publication by Carina Schlebusch, Population migration and adaptation during the African Holocene: A genetic perspective, a chapter from Modern Human Origins and Dispersal (2019):

The process behind the introduction and development of farming in Africa is still unclear. It is not known how many independent invention events there were in the continent and to which extent the various first instances of farming in northern Africa are linked. Based on the archeological record, it was proposed that at least three regions in Africa may have developed agriculture independently: the Sahara/Sahel (around 7 ka), the Ethiopian highlands (7-4 ka), and western Africa (5-3 ka). In addition to these developments, the Nile River Valley is thought to have adopted agriculture (around 7.2 ka), from the Neolithic Revolution in the Middle East (Chapter 12 – Jobling et al. 2014; Chapter 35, 37 – Mitchell and Lane 2013). From these diverse centers of origin, farmers or farming practices spread to the rest of Africa, with domesticate animals reaching the southern tip of Africa ~2 ka and crop farming ~1,8 ka (Mitchell 2002; Huffman 2007)

african-popularion-movements
Schematic representation of possible migration routes related to the expansion of herders and crop farmers during Holocene times. Arrow color indicate source populations; Brown-Eurasian, Green-western African, Blue-eastern African.

Similar to the case in Europe and the 1990s-2000s wrong haplogroup history based on the modern distribution of R1b, R1a, N, or I2, it is possible that neither of the most often mentioned haplogroups linked to the Afroasiatic expansion, E and J, were responsible for its early spread within Africa, despite their widespread distribution in certain modern Afroasiatic-speaking areas. The fact that such assessments include implausible glottochronological dates spanning up to 20,000 years for the parent language, combined with regional language continuities despite archaeological changes, makes them even more suspicious.

Similar to the case with Indo-Europeans and the “steppe ancestry” concept of the 2010s, it may be that the often-looked-for West Eurasian ancestry among Africans is the effect of recent migrations, unrelated to the Afroasiatic expansion. The results of this paper could be offering another sign of how this ancestry may have expanded only quite recently westwards from East Africa through the Sahel, after the Semitic expansion to the south:

1. From approximately 1000 BC, accompanying Nilo-Saharan peoples.

2. From approximately AD 1500, with the different population movements related to the nomadic Fulani:

sahel-nomadic-sedentary
Image from Sahel in West African History – Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History.
  • Arguably, since the Fulani caste system wasn’t as elaborate in northern Nigeria, eastern Niger, and Cameroon, these specific groups would be a good example of the admixture with eastern populations, based on the (proportionally) huge amount of slaves they dealt with.
  • Similarly, it could be argued that the castes-based social stratification in most other territories (including Sudan) would have helped them keep a genetic make-up similar to their region of origin in terms of ancient lineages, hence similar to Chadic populations from west to east.

Reich’s assertion of the association of the language expansion with the spread of Pastoral Neolithic is still too vague, but – based on previous publications of ancient DNA in Africa and the Levant – I don’t have high hopes for a revolutionary paper in the near future. Without many samples and proper temporal transects, we are stuck with speculations based on modern distributions and scarce historical data.

fula-people-distribution
A distribution map of Fula people. Dark green: a major ethnic group; Medium: significant; Light: minor. Modified from image by Sarah Welch at Wikipedia.

About the potential genetic make-up of Cameroon before the arrival of the Neolithic, from the recent SAA 84th Annual Meeting (Abstracts in PDF):

Lipson, Mark (Harvard Medical School), Mary Prendergast (Harvard University), Isabelle Ribot (Université de Montréal), Carles Lalueza-Fox (Institute of Evolutionary Biology CSIC-UPF) and David Reich (Harvard Medical School)

[253] Ancient Human DNA from Shum Laka (Cameroon) in the Context of African Population History We generated genome-wide DNA data from four people buried at the site of Shum Laka in Cameroon between 8000–3000 years ago. One individual carried the deeply divergent Y chromosome haplogroup A00 found at low frequencies among some present-day Niger-Congo speakers, but the genome-wide ancestry profiles for all four individuals are very different from the majority of West Africans today and instead are more similar to West-Central African hunter-gatherers. Thus, despite the geographic proximity of Shum Laka to the hypothesized birthplace of Bantu languages and the temporal range of our samples bookending the initial Bantu expansion, these individuals are not representative of a Bantu source population. We present a phylogenetic model including Shum Laka that features three major radiations within Africa: one phase early in the history of modern humans, one close to the time of the migration giving rise to non-Africans, and one in the past several thousand years. Present-day West Africans and some East Africans, in addition to Central and Southern African hunter-gatherers, retain ancestry from the first phase, which is therefore still represented throughout the majority of human diversity in Africa today.

Related

R1b-V88 migration through Southern Italy into Green Sahara corridor, and the Afroasiatic connection

palaeolithic

Open access article The peopling of the last Green Sahara revealed by high-coverage resequencing of trans-Saharan patrilineages, by D’Atanasio, Trombetta, Bonito, et al., Genome Biology (2018) 19:20.

Abstract:

Background
Little is known about the peopling of the Sahara during the Holocene climatic optimum, when the desert was replaced by a fertile environment.

Results
In order to investigate the role of the last Green Sahara in the peopling of Africa, we deep-sequence the whole non-repetitive portion of the Y chromosome in 104 males selected as representative of haplogroups which are currently found to the north and to the south of the Sahara. We identify 5,966 mutations, from which we extract 142 informative markers then genotyped in about 8,000 subjects from 145 African, Eurasian and African American populations. We find that the coalescence age of the trans-Saharan haplogroups dates back to the last Green Sahara, while most northern African or sub-Saharan clades expanded locally in the subsequent arid phase.

Conclusions
Our findings suggest that the Green Sahara promoted human movements and demographic expansions, possibly linked to the adoption of pastoralism. Comparing our results with previously reported genome-wide data, we also find evidence for a sex-biased sub-Saharan contribution to northern Africans, suggesting that historical events such as the trans-Saharan slave trade mainly contributed to the mtDNA and autosomal gene pool, whereas the northern African paternal gene pool was mainly shaped by more ancient events.

y-dna-r1b-v88-e-m78
Maximum parsimony Y chromosome tree and dating of the four trans-Saharan haplogroups. a Phylogenetic relations among the 150 samples analysed here. Each haplogroup is labelled in a different colour. The four Y sequences from ancient samples are marked by the dagger symbol. b Phylogenetic tree of the four trans-Saharan haplogroups, aligned to the timeline (at the bottom). At the tip of each lineage, the ethno-geographic affiliation of the corresponding sample is represented by a circle, coloured according to the legend (bottom left). The last Green Sahara period is highlighted by a green belt in the background

Also, interesting excerpts:

The fertile environment established in the Green Sahara probably promoted demographic expansions and rapid dispersals of the human groups, as suggested by the great homogeneity in the material culture of the early Holocene Saharan populations [62]. Our data for all the four trans-Saharan haplogroups are consistent with this scenario, since we found several multifurcated topologies, which can be considered as phylogenetic footprints of demographic expansions. The multifurcated structure of the E-M2 is suggestive of a first demographic expansion, which occurred about 10.5 kya, at the beginning of the last Green Sahara (Fig. 2; Additional file 2: Figure S4). After this initial expansion, we found that most of the trans-Saharan lineages within A3-M13, E-M2 and R-V88 radiated in a narrow time interval at 8–7 kya, suggestive of population expansions that may have occurred in the same time (Fig. 2; Additional file 2: Figures S3, S4 and S6). Interestingly, during roughly the same period, the Saharan populations adopted pastoralism, probably as an adaptive strategy against a short arid period [1, 62, 63]. So, the exploitation of pastoralism resources and the reestablishment of wetter conditions could have triggered the simultaneous population expansions observed here. R-V88 also shows signals of a further and more recent (~ 5.5 kya) Saharan demographic expansion which involved the R-V1589 internal clade. We observed similar demographic patterns in all the other haplogroups in about the same period and in different geographic areas (A3-M13/V3, E-M2/V3862 and E-M78/V32 in the Horn of Africa, E-M2/M191 in the central Sahel/central Africa), in line with the hypothesis that the start of the desertification may have caused massive economic, demographic and social changes [1].

Finally, the onset of the arid conditions at the end of the last African humid period was more abrupt in the eastern Sahara compared to the central Sahara, where an extensive hydrogeological network buffered the climatic changes, which were not complete before ~ 4 kya [6, 62, 64]. Consistent with these local climatic differences, we observed slight differences among the four trans-Saharan haplogroups. Indeed, we found that the contact between northern and sub-Saharan Africa went on until ~ 4.5 kya in the central Sahara, where we mainly found the internal lineages of E-M2 and R-V88 (Additional file 2: Figures S4 and S6). In the eastern Sahara, we found a sharper and more ancient (> 5 kya) differentiation between the people from northern Africa (and, more generally, from the Mediterranean area) and the groups from the eastern sub-Saharan regions (mainly from the Horn of Africa), as testified by the distribution and the coalescence ages of the A3-M13 and E-M78 lineages (Additional file 2: Figures S3 and S5).

green-sahara-r1b-v88-em-78
Time estimates and frequency maps of the four trans-Saharan haplogroups and major sub-clades. a Time estimates of the four trans-Saharan clades and their main internal lineages. To the left of the timeline, the time windows of the main climatic/historical African events are reported in different colours (legend in the upper left). b Frequency maps of the main trans-Saharan clades and sub-clades. For each map, the relative frequencies (percentages) are reported to the right

R-V88 has been observed at high frequencies in the central Sahel (northern Cameroon, northern Nigeria, Chad and Niger) and it has also been reported at low frequencies in northwestern Africa [37]. Outside the African continent, two rare R-V88 sub-lineages (R-M18 and R-V35) have been observed in Near East and southern Europe (particularly in Sardinia)[30, 37, 38, 39]. Because of its ethno-geographic distribution in the central Sahel, R-V88 has been linked to the spread of the Chadic branch of the Afroasiatic linguistic family [37, 40].

(…) the R-V88 lineages date back to 7.85 kya and its main internal branch (branch 233) forms a “star-like” topology (“Star-like” index = 0.55), suggestive of a demographic expansion. More specifically, 18 out of the 21 sequenced chromosomes belong to branch 233, which includes eight sister clades, five of which are represented by a single subject. The coalescence age of this sub-branch dates back to 5.73 kya, during the last Green Sahara period. Interestingly, the subjects included in the “star-like” structure come from northern Africa or central Sahel, tracing a trans-Saharan axis. It is worth noting that even the three lineages outside the main multifurcation (branches 230, 231 and 232) are sister lineages without any nested sub-structure. The peculiar topology of the R-V88 sequenced samples suggests that the diffusion of this haplogroup was quite rapid and possibly triggered by the Saharan favourable climate (Fig. 2b).

One of the theories I proposed in the Indo-European demic diffusion model since the first edition – based mainly on phylogeography – is that R1b-V88 lineages had probably crossed the Mediterranean through southern Italy into a Green Sahara region, and distributed from there throuh important green corridors, humid areas between megalakes. Even though this new study – like the rest of them – is based solely on modern samples, and as such is quite prone to error in assessing ancient distributions – as we have seen in Europe -, it seems that a southern Italian route (probably through Sicily) for R1b-V88 and a late expansion through Green Sahara is more and more likely.

If we accept that the migration of R1b-V88 lineages is the last great expansion through a Green Sahara, then this expansion is a potential candidate for the initial Afroasiatic expansion – whereas older haplogroup expansions would represent languages different than Afroasiatic, and more recent haplogroup expansions would represent subsequent expansions of Afroasiatic dialects, like Semitic, Hamitic, Cushitic, or Chadic – as I explained in an older post.

In absolutely shameless speculative terms, then – as is today common in Genetic studies, by the way, so let’s all have some fun here – instead of some sort of R1b/Eurasiatic continuity in Europe, as some autochthonous continuists would like, this could mean that there would be an old Afroasiatic – R1b connection. That would imply:

NOTE. Regarding the contribution of CHG ancestry in the Pontic-Caspian steppe cultures, it is usually explained as caused by exogamy, or by absorption of a previous population (as in the Indo-Iranian case), although a contribution of communities of mainly J subclades to the formation of Neolithic steppe cultures cannot be ruled out. As for some autochthonous continuists’ belief in some sort of mythical mixed steppe people with mixed haplogroups and mixed language, well…

nostratic-tree
Simple Nostratic tree by Bomhard (2008)

The Pre-Indo-European linguistic situation, before the formation of Neolithic steppe cultures, seems like pure speculation, because a) language macro-families (with the exception of Afroasiatic) are highly speculative, b) sound anthropological models are lacking for them, and c) migrations inferred from haplogroup distributions of modern populations are often incorrect:

  • Haplogroup R could then be argued to be the source of Nostratic, and earlier subclades the source of Starostin’s Borean, given the distribution of its subclades in Asia and the timing of their migrations.
  • But of course one could also argue that, given the comparatively late population expansions that Genomics is showing, supporting Western European linguistic schools – where Russian Nostraticists tend to date languages further back in timeR1b (and not R) expansion could be the marker of Nostratic languages, due to its most likely southern path (and their old subclades found in Iran and the Caucasus), which would be more in line with the wet dreams of Europeans proposing R1b autochthonous continuity theories. I like this option far less because of that, but it cannot be ruled out.

If you have read this blog before, you know I profoundly dislike lexicostatistical and glottochronological methods, and I don’t like mass comparisons either. Whereas these methods pretend to apply mathematics to big (raw) data where there is almost no knowledge of what one is doing, comparative grammar applies complex reasoning where there is a lot of partially processed data.

But, it is always fun to ask “what if they were right?” and follow from there…

See also: