The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Analysis of Chuvash mtDNA points to Finno-Ugric origin

ORION M. GRAF1, STEPHEN M. JOHNSON1, JOHN MITCHELL2, STEPHEN WILCOX3, GREGORY LIVSHITS4 and MICHAEL H. CRAWFORD1.

1Department of Anthropology, Lab of Biological Anthropology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 2Dept of Genetics, School of Molecular Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, 3Australian Genome Research Facility Ltd., The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Australia, 4Department of Anatomy, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

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A sample of 92 unrelated individuals from Chuvashia, Russia was sequenced for hypervariable region-I (HVR-I) of the mtDNA molecule. These data have been verified using RFLP analysis of the control region, revealing that the majority exhibit haplogroups H (31%), U (22%), and K (11%), which occur in high frequencies in western and northern Europe, but are virtually absent in Altaic or Mongolian populations. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) was used to examine distances between the Chuvash and reference populations from the literature. Neutrality tests (Tajima’s D (-1.43365) p<0.05, Fu’s FS (-25.50518) p<0.001) and mismatch analysis, which illustrates unimodal distribution, all suggest an expanding population.

The Chuvash speak a Turkic language that is not mutually intelligible to other extant Turkish groups, and their genetics are distinct from Turkic-speaking Altaic groups. Some scholars have suggested that they are remnants of the Golden Horde, while others have advocated that they are the products of admixture between Turkic and Finno-Ugric speakers who came into contact during the 13th century. Earlier genetic research using autosomal DNA markers indicated a Finno-Ugric origin for the Chuvash. This study examines uniparental mitochondrial DNA markers to better elucidate their origins. Results from this study maintain that the Chuvash are not related to Altaic or Mongolian populations along their maternal line, thus supporting the “Elite” hypothesis that their language was imposed by a conquering group —leaving Chuvash mtDNA largely of Eurasian origin. Their maternal markers appear to most closely resemble Finno-Ugric speakers rather than Turkic speakers.

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