Mitochondrial Haplogroup H1 in North Africa: An Early Holocene Arrival from Iberia
The Tuareg of the Fezzan region (Libya) are characterized by an extremely high frequency (61%) of haplogroup H1, a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup that is common in all Western European populations. To define how and when H1 spread from Europe to North Africa up to the Central Sahara, in Fezzan, we investigated the complete mitochondrial genomes of eleven Libyan Tuareg belonging to H1. Coalescence time estimates suggest an arrival of the European H1 mtDNAs at about 8,000–9,000 years ago, while phylogenetic analyses reveal three novel H1 branches, termed H1v, H1w and H1x, which appear to be specific for North African populations, but whose frequencies can be extremely different even in relatively close Tuareg villages. Overall, these findings support the scenario of an arrival of haplogroup H1 in North Africa from Iberia at the beginning of the Holocene, as a consequence of the improvement in climate conditions after the Younger Dryas cold snap, followed by in situ formation of local H1 sub-haplogroups. This process of autochthonous differentiation continues in the Libyan Tuareg who, probably due to isolation and recent founder events, are characterized by village-specific maternal mtDNA lineages.
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