Nairs, Thiyyas genetically closer to population of northwest India, reveals study

POPULATION groups like Nairs and Thiyyas of southwest coast of India are genetically closer to populations of northwest India, revealed a study, report online news sites quoting IANS.

The researchers concluded that the Nairs, Thiyyas and Ezhavas from Kerala, and Bunts and Hoysalas from Karnataka are genetically closer to populations of northwest India.

The high-throughput genetic study has been conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj, J.C. Bose Fellow, CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

Its finding has been published recently in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution.

The southwest coast of India is one of the regions of high genetic and cultural diversity resulting from millennia of migration, settlements, and admixture of human populations. Earlier studies on the recent migrants, who inhabited southwest India, including Jews, Parsis and Roman Catholics reveal the existence of the rich genetic heritage of this region.

However, one major group of populations in this region with the historical status of warriors or feudal lords has a debatable genetic history.

Historians and written records relate them to migrants from Ahichhatra (Iron Age civilization) in the Gangetic plain, while others relate them to Indo-Scythian clan migrants from northwest India.

A recent genetic study has found answers to end the debate. The researchers have analysed the DNA of 213 individuals of traditional warriors and feudal lord communities from southwest coast India. They looked for genome-wide autosomal markers and maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA markers and compared their results with ancient and contemporary Eurasian populations ranging from the Bronze Age to present-day groups.

"Our genetic study revealed that the Nair and Thiyya warrior communities share most of their ancestry from ancient migrants of northwest India, and have enhanced Iranian ancestry, similar to Kamboj and Gujjar populations," said Dr.Thangaraj.

"Their maternal genome reflects the higher distribution of West Eurasian mitochondrial lineages, suggesting female-mediated migration, unlike most of the recent migrant groups such as Siddis.

"Our machine-learning based study suggests that the migration of these groups happened following northwest to central India to the southwest coast during late Bronze Age or probably Iron Age," said Dr Lomous Kumar, first author of the study, who was the PhD student of the CCMB and presently is at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow.

"This study suggests that the southwest coastal groups are remnants of very early migrations from northwest India following the Godavari basin to Karnataka and Kerala," CCMB Director Dr. Vinay K. Nandicoori said.

Other researchers who were involved in this study are Dr. Moinak Banerjee, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram; and Dr. Mohammed S. Mustak, Mangalore University, Mangaluru.