Bayesian analyses of Yemeni mitochondrial genomes suggest multiple migration events with Africa and Western Eurasia
Deven N Vyas, Andrew Kitchen, Aida T Miró-Herrans, Laurel N Pearson, Ali Al-Meeri, Connie J Mulligan
Anatomically modern humans (AMHs) left Africa ~60,000 years ago, marking the first of multiple dispersal events by AMH between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The southern dispersal route (SDR) out of Africa (OOA) posits that early AMHs crossed the Bab el-Mandeb strait from the Horn of Africa into what is now Yemen and followed the coast of the Indian Ocean into eastern Eurasia. If AMHs followed the SDR and left modern descendants in situ, Yemeni populations should retain old autochthonous mitogenome lineages. Alternatively, if AMHs did not follow the SDR or did not leave modern descendants in the region, only young autochthonous lineages will remain as evidence of more recent dispersals. We sequenced 113 whole mitogenomes from multiple Yemeni regions with a focus on haplogroups M, N, and L3(xM,N) as they are considered markers of the initial OOA migrations. We performed Bayesian evolutionary analyses to generate time-measured phylogenies calibrated by Neanderthal and Denisovan mitogenome sequences in order to determine the age of Yemeni-specific clades in our dataset. Our results indicate that the M1, N1, and L3(xM,N) sequences in Yemen are the product of recent migration from Africa and western Eurasia. Although these data suggest that modern Yemeni mitogenomes are not markers of the original OOA migrants, we hypothesize that recent population dynamics may obscure any genetic signature of an ancient SDR migration.