Hunter Gatherer Research

Post marital residence behaviours shape genetic variation in hunter-gatherer and agricultural populations from Central Africa

Hunter Gatherer Research (2015), 1, (1), 107–124.

Abstract

The evolution of the sociocultural behaviours determining lineage transmission and post marital residence rules in human societies has been the subject of intense debates in cultural anthropology and ethnology. Population genetics paradigms and methods can provide new insights into the past mobility behaviour of spouse and their influence on the genetic diversity patterns observed today among communities and populations. Here, we review, for a non-specialized scientific audience, two population genetics papers that we previously published (Verdu et al 2009; 2013). These papers mainly focused on the reconstruction of the demographic history of Central African hunter-gatherer and agricultural populations using genetic data, and on how complex post marital residence behaviours shaped the genetic diversity patterns currently observed within and among these populations. In particular, we found that Central African hunter-gatherer populations show genetic patterns that would be expected for matrilocal populations, while they often report practicing patrilocality similarly as their neighbouring agricultural populations. In fact, we showed that complex and variable gender-specific post marital residence behaviours in the context of patrilocality and socio-economic discrimination of hunter-gatherer populations could satisfactorily explain the observed genetic patterns. Nevertheless, as an alternative explanation, we propose here that these patterns may result also from past post marital residence rules that are not currently observed in these Central African hunter-gatherer and agricultural populations.

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Verdu, Paul

Austerlitz, Frédéric