The mountainous regions of southwest China are among the most ethnically diverse regions in China. In the most comprehensive genetic analysis of local populations to date, the researchers revealed that the habitation and migration histories of these populations are more complex than previously concluded. The study was published in Cell Reports on April 26.
The Tibetan-Yi Corridor – named after the two main ethnic groups in the region, is located on the eastern edge of China’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is considered an important area for ethnic migration and diversification. The Tibetan-Yi Corridor has a rippled landscape of deep river valleys and high ridges, which naturally form a barrier to biological migration and gene flow.
Previously, scientists had analyzed the relationship between the inhabitants of the area and tibetans and other ethnic groups, who mainly lived in the western part of the region. But previous studies have only taken limited samples and records from the area, which is actually home to at least two dozen different ethnic groups.
To better understand the ethnic minorities in the Tibetan-Yi corridor, the team of Li Shengbin, co-corresponding author of the paper and a professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, spent 10 years. “The steep mountain ranges create the region’s high ethnic diversity and make data collection extremely difficult.” Li Shengbin said, “Most places cannot be reached by car, so we have to ride horses, and even need to walk for several hours to reach the destination.” ”
The research team selected individuals from each ethnic group who had at least three generations living in a relatively fixed area. By comparing genomic data from different ethnic groups, they found that all ethnic groups in the region were genetically similar, suggesting that they shared a common ancestor. But people living in the northern part of the Tibetan-Yi Corridor are more closely related to those living on the Tibetan Plateau, while people in the southern part of the corridor are more closely related to Southeast Asians such as Thais and Cambodians.
Previous research has shown that the earliest settlers in the area came from the upper Reaches of the Yellow River in northern Neolithic China, and the population of the Tibetan-Yi Corridor gradually increased as settlers expanded southward. The new study, while not contradicting previous conclusions, found that migration patterns are more complex than simple north-to-south migration. For example, new data suggest that the ancestors of some ethnic groups in the southern Tibetan-Yi corridor may have originated in Southeast Asia.
“More research is needed to better understand the origins and movements of people in the region, especially through a more comprehensive analysis of genetic, archaeological, cultural, linguistic and geographical evidence.” Li Shuaicheng, co-corresponding author of the study and a professor at the City University of Hong Kong in China, said.
Next, the team hopes to study the eating habits and health of the Tibetan-Yi corridor population. “There is no air pollution in the area, local ingredients have endemic characteristics, there are also epidemics of endemic diseases in the region, and their eating habits help to reveal more links between food and health.” Li Shengbin said. (Source: China Science Daily Feng Lifei)
Related thesis information: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110720