The genome-wide analysis of the Bhils: the second largest tribal population of India

Chaubey, Gyaneshwer ; Govindaraj, Periyasamy ; Rai, Niraj ; van Driem, George ; Thangaraj, Kumarasamy (2017) The genome-wide analysis of the Bhils: the second largest tribal population of India Man in India, 97 (1). pp. 279-290. ISSN 0025-1569

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The name of the Bhil population was mentioned in early literature of the Subcontinent, which suggests their presence in India since prehistoric times. Studies based on classical and genetic markers suggest a unique identity of the Bhil, who currently live in western and central Indian states. Our previous studies on two Bhil groups living in central and western Indian regions drew different conclusions on their origin. However, the first study on the Bhil of central India was based on haploid DNA and a few autosomal markers, whereas the second study on the western Bhil explored large number of autosomal SNPs. Therefore, in this study we have reconnoitered the inter-population and intra-population relationships of Bhil groups at four different geographical locations by using >95,000 autosomal SNPs. A combination of statistical analysis revealed that all Bhil populations are likely to have had a common source sharing a pan-Bhil ancestry. This common ancestry is clearly seen amongst the Bhil of Gujarat who turned out to show the lowest degree of admixture with their neighbours, whereas the Bhil of Rajasthan showed the highest diversity with extensive admixture with the surrounding populations. Both inter-population and intra-population comparison suggest a shared Bhil genome followed by chunks sharing with the Nihali population, a language community speaking a so-called language isolate.

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