Article

European Journal of Human Genetics (2017) 25, 493–498; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2016.198; published online 1 February 2017

Reconstructing the population history of the largest tribe of India: the Dravidian speaking Gond

Gyaneshwer Chaubey1, Rakesh Tamang2,3, Erwan Pennarun1, Pavan Dubey4, Niraj Rai5, Rakesh Kumar Upadhyay6, Rajendra Prasad Meena7, Jayanti R Patel4, George van Driem8, Kumarasamy Thangaraj5, Mait Metspalu1 and Richard Villems1,9

  1. 1Evolutionary Biology Group, Estonian Biocentre, Tartu, Estonia
  2. 2Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India
  3. 3Department of Genetics, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India
  4. 4Narsimhbhai Patel Dental College and Hospital, Sankhal Chand Patel University, Visnagar, India
  5. 5Bharat Addhyan Kendra, Faculty of Arts, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India
  6. 6Prakash Hospitals and Trauma Centre, Mau, India
  7. 7CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India
  8. 8Institute of Linguistics, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  9. 9Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

Correspondence: Dr G Chaubey, Evolutionary Biology Group, Estonian Biocentre, Riia23b, Tartu 51010, Estonia. Tel: +372 73 75050; Fax: +372 74 20194; E-mail: gyanc@ebc.ee

Received 22 June 2016; Revised 1 November 2016; Accepted 14 December 2016
Advance online publication 1 February 2017

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Abstract

The Gond comprise the largest tribal group of India with a population exceeding 12 million. Linguistically, the Gond belong to the Gondi–Manda subgroup of the South Central branch of the Dravidian language family. Ethnographers, anthropologists and linguists entertain mutually incompatible hypotheses on their origin. Genetic studies of these people have thus far suffered from the low resolution of the genetic data or the limited number of samples. Therefore, to gain a more comprehensive view on ancient ancestry and genetic affinities of the Gond with the neighbouring populations speaking Indo-European, Dravidian and Austroasiatic languages, we have studied four geographically distinct groups of Gond using high-resolution data. All the Gond groups share a common ancestry with a certain degree of isolation and differentiation. Our allele frequency and haplotype-based analyses reveal that the Gond share substantial genetic ancestry with the Indian Austroasiatic (ie, Munda) groups, rather than with the other Dravidian groups to whom they are most closely related linguistically.