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From social to genetic structures: a genome-wide approach in South-East Asia – SoGen

Submission summary

In humans, evolution is not only biological but also cultural: humans develop new technologies, modify their diet, control their reproduction, build up complex social organizations etc. Biologists and social scientists have become all the more interested into this double evolution since there is growing evidence that biological and cultural processes interact. Among all cultural traits, social organization is of particular interest to biologists since it conditions when, where and with whom men and women reproduce and raise their children. Social organization is therefore a key factor influencing genes transmission to the next generation and their dispersal within and between populations. Its understanding is therefore crucial to understand gene pool evolution. Ethnologists have described the impressive complexity of social organizations in human populations, and in particular the complex rules of alliance (which determine mate choice), rules of descent (which affiliate individuals to kin groups), and rules of residence (which indicate where just married couples should settle down). For the past ten years, geneticists have intended to understand how these rules affect the genetic diversity of human populations at local and global scales. However, such ethnogenetic studies have focused on a small number of populations and on a limited number of genetic markers, mostly uniparentally inherited Y chromosome and mtDNA. Moreover, there is a lack of data regarding the impact of social organization on demographic traits (fertility, survival, migrations), which may in turn influence gene pool evolution. Consequently, there is a need for a more comprehensive understanding of the extent to which social organization influences demographic traits and genome-wide diversity among humans. We propose to collect new multidisciplinary data from South-East Asian populations, which exhibit a wide range of social organizations (patrilineal, matrilineal, cognatic descents, with different degrees of endogamy and different residence rules). We will collect not only genetic data (saliva) but also demographic and ethnological data at the individual level, in order to investigate the impact of social processes on biological processes at a fine scale. Moreover, we will sample data for trios (mother, father, child) rather than unrelated individuals, in order to investigate the influence of alliance rules on genetic diversity, and to infer phased haplotypes and perform linkage disequilibrium analyses. In addition to the classically studied Y chromosome and mtDNA, we will genotype ~550,000 genetic markers evenly spaced throughout the genome. Such multidisciplinary data will allow us to i) explore, at the population level and at the kin group level, the impact of social organization on neutral and counter selected genome wide diversity, ii) explore which demographic traits (fertility, survival, migrations) are most affected by social organization, iii) then develop new methodological tools for the field of ethnogenetics: in particular we will develop new multidisciplinary models, taking into account ethnological and demographic traits, and aiming at investigating to which extent some aspects of past and present social organization may be inferred from genetic data and possibly detect past transitions in social organization.

Project coordinator

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


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Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 0 Months

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