Kalash on the human tree

By Razib Khan | February 18, 2012 11:07 am

A recent paper on Turkish genetics has a tree which illustrates a summary of how the Kalash shake out:

I say summary because this tree takes a lot of information and tries to generate the best fit representation. It does hide some information by the nature of its aggregation of patterns. For example, the position of the Burusho, or Turks, has to do with the fact that both of these have low, but noticeable, levels of East Asian admixture on top of a different base. If you removed this eastern element both groups would come much closer to similar groups. The extreme long branches leading to the Kalash and Mozabites are almost certainly a function of endogamy and inbreeding. Their allele frequencies diverged from nearby populations because of isolation.

But notice the nearby populations of the Kalash. They’re northwest South Asian. In many ways if you removed the drift and endogamy from the Kalash I suspect you’d been left with a group very similar to their Pathan neighbors.

Finally, as many of you know I put a substantial number of comments into ‘spam’ on this weblog. Here’s one related to the Kalash which you didn’t see:

“Because of their light skin and hair both the Kalash and Burusho have inspired claims that they are “lost white tribes.” This is almost certainly false for the Burusho. Aside from their moderate East Asian admixture, they’re not so different from other Pakistanis in their region genetically.”

LOL! You are in such denial! A lot of pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo to spin a lie. OF COURSE they’re of European descent. Claiming European genes as indigenous makes Arabs, Iranians, Middle Easterners and Indians, like you, sound pathetic and desperate.

Geneticists like you could make BRAD PITT’S genes indigenous to South Asia if you wanted to. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

The interesting thing is that this sort of comment is routinely written by white nationalists, Afrocentrists, Indian nationalists, etc. etc. of Racial romanticism often has as great a difficulty accepting the nature of the human phylogeny as those who would like to elide any substantive differences. The only thing I would note though is that this person posted as “liz” at Amardeep Singh’s blog (email: beautifullydrawn@gmail.com, with an IP that traces to Alfred University) so it might beat false-flag troll.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Anthroplogy, Genetics, Human Genetics
MORE ABOUT: Kalash
  • http://www.zackvision.com/weblog/ Zack

    My latest ChromoPainter run had the Kalash clustering with Burusho, Sindhis, Pathans and Punjabis.

  • ackbark

    Alfred University –named after Bruce Wayne’s butler?

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Correct me if I’m wrong (even as a laymen, my scientific background is more in cladistics due to paleontological interest than genetics, so the principles I know from this may not apply) but doesn’t the lack of South Asian populations (particularly groups close by, like the Pamir Tajiks and Kasmiris) mean this chart shows less than we would hope for? As you note, on the whole it seems to show a cline along the East Eurasian/West Eurasian axis. Few populations cluster much beyond this, except at the far edges.

    As an example, if the Chuvash were included on this chart, a group with a known mainly European ancestry, but with a non-trivial East Eurasian/Siberan component, wouldn’t they cluster not with closely-related European populations, but around the Burusho, who show a similar level of East Eurasian admixture?

  • Tom Bri

    Thanks for deleting those kinds of comments. One of the things that keeps me reading this blog is the quality of the people who comment.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    mean this chart shows less than we would hope for?

    what do you think i hope for? i’m just falsifying the contention that the kalash are europeanish. does it not show that? (unlike the burusho we know that the kalash don’t have east eurasian)

    wouldn’t they cluster not with closely-related European populations, but around the Burusho, who show a similar level of East Eurasian admixture?

    not burusho. probably somewhat further along the tree than turks. the “ASI” are closer to east asians, so that pulls all south asians in that direction.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    I think we would hope for an understanding of the closest relations to the Kalash, and the ultimate antecedents of the population. Of course the established genetic data discounts a “European” origin for the Kalash (or, at least, no more than a fractional one, similar to the other, more typically South-Asian looking populations in the region), but there’s a lot of possibilities for ethnogenesis left open.

    One question (maybe it’s better in the other thread) is besides coloration, is there anything about the appearance of the Kalash which sets them apart from their neighbors? Not to get on a riff from the other week, but if you came up with a facial composite of the average Kalash man or woman, and compared it to, say Khowar-speaking Chitralis, or Kasmiris, would they look virtually identical beside skin tone, hair color, and eye color?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #6, look at zack’s chromopainter. has almost every south asian group you’d want.

  • AV

    Hi Razib. Are the HGDP Pathan samples from Chitral? Rumors are that they are from Peshawar, but this claim doesn’t seem to be backed up by any official statement on the part of the Human Genome Diversity Project. Seeing that the Kalash samples can’t be from anywhere except Chitral, would it be right to assume that the Pathan samples were also collected in the vicinity? I’ve gone through the entire HGDP website and PDFs and my search has been rather futile.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1321332354&ref=tn_tnmn Carl |Graham

    Interestingly enough I notice that Balochi’s (well one anyway)have been placed in the Graham cluster in the FTDNA Y-Haplogroup J DNA Project.I did take the time to look around and I found a number of similar signatures among Balochi’s |(and presumed Balochi’s).Interesting to note that a signature present in the Kalash ( an I2a3 signature I believe) has been found in the Anglo/Scots border region amongst the Grahams nearest neighbours (Armstrongs) and in several families that occasionally have the same genetic signature as Grahams (Browns,Nelsons).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #8, i assume they’re not from chitral. they tried to get diverse samples.

  • AV

    @Razib – It would be most helpful if you could quote an official statement from the HGDP to support that. Would it be possible for you to forward a quick mail to them asking the same (regarding the Pathan and Kalash samples i.e where they collected them from). Thanks so much.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #11, not now.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Razib,

    The populations I’d expect to be possible relations of the Kalash, based upon some combination of linguistics, somewhat similar appearance, or location relatively nearby, would be: Other Dardic populations (Kasmiri is the best known, but there are ten other languages besides it and Kalasha), Pashtuns from various areas due to the heterogeneity of the group, Pamiri “Tajiks” and the Nuristani.

    Speaking of the Nuristani, a close connection shouldn’t be assumed – they are widely taken to be Kalash who were forcibly converted to Islam a little over 100 years ago. However, the five extant Nuristani languages are not closely related to Kalasha at all, being a totally separate branch of Indo-Iranian. The two groups are adjacent however, and certainly look more alike than either does to their neighbors. It may be that the Kalasha picked up a Dardic language from their Khowar neighbors within recent centuries. On the other hand, the two groups may not be much more closely related than the Kalash are to the Burusho. IIRC, the legends of Macedonian ancestry actually came from the Nuristani, so although unlikely, it really hasn’t been disproven yet, since to my knowledge no one has analyzed Nuristani DNA (please prove me wrong).

    Which brings up another interesting point. We’re looking at at least three groups which all developed lighter complexions than the norm in the region. There may, in fact, be even more, considering there are dozens of groups in mountain valleys stretching from the Pamirs to Kashmir, and it’s all but impossible to find good pictures for most of those groups online. It is easy, given there was probably some fractional European ancestry which came into the region with the Aryan migrations, to see how random drift could cause one population to develop a lighter complexion. But if the different groups are not closely related, despite relatively close proximity, random drift seems less likely compared to some form of active selection, be it environmental or sexual.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Other Dardic populations (Kasmiri is the best known, but there are ten other languages besides it and Kalasha),

    reich et al. had kashmiris.

  • rimon

    razib, apologies in advance if you don’t think this is an intelligent comment, but I’m saying it sincerely, and I mean basically the opposite of what Karl Zimmerman is saying.

    Is it not possible that in the far distant past people in the region of afghanistan/pakistan/central asia were mostly fair in coloring (a “european” phenotype, though they were not genetically European) and through centuries of mixing with their neighbors who moved from areas of darker phenotypes (today’s Iran, India, China, etc) they picked up some darker coloring, although with pockets of the lighter phenotype remaining in isolated areas like the mountains of Chitral region, etc, and with many more people in the region as a whole expressing recessive traits for blue or green eyes and light skin than you find in Southern India, for example. This scenario seems far more likely to me than what Karl is saying about these small populations developing lighter complexions through drift. and also it means that it is not such a surprise that the kalash and burusho are genetically similar to their neighbors.
    Karl might want to take a look at the pictures on http://pastmist.wordpress.com/ to see the range of lighter phenotypes in the region.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Is it not possible that in the far distant past people in the region of afghanistan/pakistan/central asia were mostly fair in coloring (a “european” phenotype, though they were not genetically European) and through centuries of mixing with their neighbors who moved from areas of darker phenotypes (today’s Iran, India, China, etc) they picked up some darker coloring, although with pockets of the lighter phenotype remaining in isolated areas like the mountains of Chitral region, etc, and with many more people in the region as a whole expressing recessive traits for blue or green eyes and light skin than you find in Southern India, for example.

    just a minor note, i assume you aren’t saying that light skin is recessive? it isn’t. second, i guess the most likely scenario for this is if the alleles were genetically distinct from european ones. to my knowledge they are not. i’d check: http://hgdp.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/gbrowse/HGDP/

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    This scenario seems far more likely to me than what Karl is saying about these small populations developing lighter complexions through drift.

    theoretically karl’s model is not crazy. the kalash have been extremely subject to drift. far more than a normal population. this could result in high frequencies for alleles which express in a recessive fashion.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Razib,

    I saw Kashmiris were in the analysis, and seem to not be very closely related at all. In one sense, this is a bit surprising, but there are a lot of variables here. Even considering only Indian Kashmir, there are a lot of different ethnic groups, and a range of appearances essentially the same as the Pashtun. From what I can see from the named people in Zach’s chart, they are all Kashmiri Pandits as well. My understanding is many Kashmiri Pandits migrated out of Kashmir due to internal troubles post-1947, if not earlier, and thus may not be unadmixed. Given they descend from Brahmins regardless, and there is an ethnic division between Brahmins and other castes elsewhere, they may not be the most complete ethnic representation regardless.

    Rimon -

    To a degree, you are certainly correct. It’s established that Turkic and Mongolian invaders had a huge demographic effect in Afghanistan, for example. While this is most notable among the Turkic-speaking population and the Hazaras, it’s also the case among Tajiks and even Pashtuns to a lesser extent. In addition, some Tibetan and/or Siberian admixture certainly has happened among groups like the Pamiri, Burusho, etc.

    As to your broader point, even if the populations of the region are not genetically “European,” it seems likely the genes for light coloration came from Europe. To my knowledge (and Razib’s, it seems) this hasn’t been checked yet. However, these groups don’t just show blond hair, like groups such as Melanesians and Australian Aborigines do who developed blondism independently. Instead, they show the full range of “European” coloration – hazel, green, and blue eyes, and brown, blond, and even red hair. It would be pretty unlikely that independent mutations evolved in all cases, and given the known introduction of Indo-European languages to the region, the most parsimonious answer is to assume that the fractional European ancestry won out to some degree.

    Another issue, which Razib mentioned in a recent post about the Tibetans, is genes seem to flow downhill rather than uphill. Thus, while it would make sense for the lowlands to have gotten swamped by various migrations, if anything instead of “South Asians” migrating into the (other) mountain valleys, the highland ethnic groups should have migrated into the lowlands in dribs and drabs, be they lone individuals seeking adventure in the wider world, or whole villages trying to move into empty land. Looking at places like the Caucuses, New Guinea, or more recently the Andes shows how resistant highlands are to cultural and demographic change.

    More generally -

    You both seem to be misinterpreting my final point, which was actually that random drift may be very unlikely provided the different light-skinned groups have different historical antecedents (as opposed to a common origin).

    Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, around 20% of the initial post Indo-Iranian population of the region was of “North European” ancestry. This doesn’t seem unlikely if you look at the admixture results from Deinekes for the populations in the region, and exclude the East Asian/Siberian ancestry as probable recent intrusion. While math isn’t my strong point by any means, I know enough about how drift works to say that if you stuffed ten isolated mountain valleys with this population mix, you shouldn’t expect two (e.g., 20%) to end up looking North European. While random drift can happen in any direction, the more marginal an allele is in a small population, the less likely it can stage a major resurgence. You’d either need much higher levels of North European (at least until the population stabilized and could allow for later trickles of South Asian into the mix), or you’d need some form of active selection.

    There are lots of examples of rare phenotypes – like polydactyly among some Basque families – that get conserved in isolated areas. However, expecting strong drift towards one phenotypical norm among multiple populations in a comparably small area just seems odd. Particularly because the traits seem to have come together as one package, when clearly, for example, darker-skinned people can have blue or green eyes. Indeed, in India, this is pretty much the only form of light coloration that you see outside of Kashmir.

    I’m not saying I have an answer here. Honestly, I’m not sure why environmental selection would favor blondism and the like in the mountains. We still don’t have a good explanation of why these traits became predominant in Europe after all. Overall levels of solar radiation are pretty much the same as the surrounding lowlands, although some of the valleys are quite rainy and overcast, which might make light skin less of a disadvantage than it would be in an arid climate with lots of sun. In addition, while there is plenty of sun in the winter, the harsh climate might mean people traditionally spent a lot of time indoors in the winter, when crops could not be grown, meaning less effective solar radiation.

    I would guess, however, that if any active selection was taking place it would be sexual. Presuming the original Indo-Aryan ruling class was at least partly of European ancestry, it would be easy to see how a lighter complexion could be favored – particularly because it is anyway in much of India.

    Apologies for the length of this reply. I’ll try to keep the shorter in the future.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    they may not be the most complete ethnic representation regardless.

    do you want to bet? i’ve seen enough indian populations sampled that i think no, there’s not going to be much gained by sampling every single north indian group in relation to this question. how much money are you willing to put down? zack might get the appropriate populations at some point within the next year. (i’m asking you to bet because your concerns strike me as real weak, and i wonder if you just don’t want to give up)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    To my knowledge (and Razib’s, it seems) this hasn’t been checked yet. However, these groups don’t just show blond hair, like groups such as Melanesians and Australian Aborigines do who developed blondism independently. Instead, they show the full range of “European” coloration – hazel, green, and blue eyes, and brown, blond, and even red hair. It would be pretty unlikely that independent mutations evolved in all cases, and given the known introduction of Indo-European languages to the region, the most parsimonious answer is to assume that the fractional European ancestry won out to some degree.

    non-trivial point: the regions with the highest fractions of a given allele may not be the point of origin of a given allele. some researchers from a few years back claim that the blue eye variants may be west asian in origin, though they are at highest frequency in northeast europe. IOW, blue eye allele may derive from a common west asian source. rose in frequency in northeast europe, and no so much in south asia (due to natural selection).

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Razib.

    I’ll admit my caveats on Kashmiri Pandits are pretty weak tea. I’m not hypothesizing a close relationship, just saying all the data isn’t in. Kashmiris are the only Dardic group which number in the millions, live an a fairly large lowland area, and have had somewhat extensive contact with India as a whole. I do think sampling some of the nearby groups, like the Khowar, Phalura, Kati, Gujari, etc. may show something interesting however. Or not. But it would be interesting to have the data regardless.

    As to you other point on the “Europeanness” of light features, it is well taken. Both the hypothesis of proto-Indo-European as agricultural expansion from the near east, or a elite-based dominance based upon horse culture, have some merits, although I know consensus has been drifting back to the latter in recent years.

    However, it seems unlikely that blue eyes, for example, entered South Asia with the initial expansion of (Dravidian?) farmers, given they are almost unknown in South India. Indeed, in general, light coloration peaks relatively close to the Swat Valley, which is also the first place the Aryans were thought to have entered South Asia. This plus evidence of blue eyes from Tarim mummies, and remains in Central Asia, suggests that even if they didn’t originate in Europe, Indo-Europeans almost certainly brought them in.

    So I’ll take back fractional European ancestry. I will note, however, that Deinekes analysis does show “North European” ancestry to a fractional degree in the region however. It may be this is not really North European, of course, it’s just a near eastern cluster which, like blue eyes, expanded dramatically for some reason when it reached Northern Europe. But even if there wasn’t a true migration out of Europe, this genetic component could still very well have common antecedents.

  • http://www.zackvision.com/weblog/ Zack

    AV: Here are two links for lat/long coordinates of HGDP samples.

    The first one shows the Pathan samples to be from a region around Peshawar, but it’s a fairly large region.

    The second link gives exact coordinates, somewhere around Kurram Agency in FATA.

  • Eurologist

    I would argue that if blondism/blue eyes entered the region from Eastern Europe, that may very well be completely unrelated to the *main* spread of IE into that region.

    Firstly, (fairly) light skin is quite common all over Eastern Anatolia, the Caucasus, Iran, and nearby eastern regions all the way to the Altai and Eastern Siberia – so its presence in Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan and NW India would be expected due to diffusion, alone.

    Secondly, while there is historic and present blondism all the way to western China, those migrations – even while likely IE – have nothing to do with with Indo-Iranian. Tocharian sits on a different branch at a different time frame, and today’s and ancient y-DNA of the steppes between the Two Great Lakes doesn’t match the region of interest. Thus, it is (IMO) more likely that IE entered the region through a more southerly path – from Anatolia through Iran and East. The latter may have involved lighter skin and a slight increase in Caucasian features – but IMO it is likely that the region harbored a good deal of Caucasian features in the first place, because it may have very well been its origin.

  • Jim

    “even if the populations of the region are not genetically “European,” it seems likely the genes for light coloration came from Europe. ”

    Or went there from Asia. That after all has been the direction of migration for a very long time.

    I am just a clueless layman wandering by, but it doesn’t seem obvious to me that those traits originated in Europe. They either fade out the farther west you go or where they occur in those areas, they are due to fairly recent migration. In particular light eyes – not blue color but pale green,blue or brown – seem to become more common the further east you go.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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