Unexpected Island effects at an extreme: Reduced y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA diversity in Nias

Mannis Van Oven, Johannes M. Hämmerle, Marja Van Schoor, Geoff Kushnick, Petra Pennekamp, Idaman Zega, Oscar Lao, Lea Brown, Ingo Kennerknecht, Manfred Kayser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


The amount of genetic diversity in a population is determined by demographic and selection events in its history. Human populations which exhibit greatly reduced overall genetic diversity, presumably resulting from severe bottlenecks or founder events, are particularly interesting, not least because of their potential to serve as valuable resources for health studies. Here, we present an unexpected case, the human population of Nias Island in Indonesia, that exhibits severely reduced Y chromosome (non-recombining portion of the Y chromosome [NRY]) and to a lesser extent also reduced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diversity as compared with most other populations from the Asia/Oceania region. Our genetic data, collected from more than 400 individuals from across the island, suggest a strong previously undetected bottleneck or founder event in the human population history of Nias, more pronounced for males than for females, followed by subsequent genetic isolation. Our findings are unexpected given the island's geographic proximity to the genetically highly diverse Southeast Asian world, as well as our previous knowledge about the human history of Nias. Furthermore, all NRY and virtually all mtDNA haplogroups observed in Nias can be attributed to the Austronesian expansion, in line with linguistic data, and in contrast with archaeological evidence for a pre-Austronesian occupation of Nias that, as we show here, left no significant genetic footprints in the contemporary population. Our work underlines the importance of human genetic diversity studies not only for a better understanding of human population history but also because of the potential relevance for genetic disease-mapping studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-1361
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Unexpected Island effects at an extreme: Reduced y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA diversity in Nias'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this