In 1838, “Roof of the World” was first used to describe the Pamirs by the British explorer John Wood. The high altitude makes the Pamirs a big challenge in human dispersal in Central Asia.
The terrible traffic and environment made the investigation of population genetics difficult in this region. Therefore, the settlement history is still unclear in the Pamirs.
To address this issue, the team leaded by Prof. ZHANG Yaping from Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences has established a wide international collaboration.
The joint team used next-generation sequencing to analyze the mitochondrial DNA genomes of 382 individuals from eight populations inhabiting the Pamirs and the surrounding lowlands in Central Asia.
The dissection of mtDNA lineages supports the admixed origins of Central Asians. Most lineages of the Pamir Highlanders coalesced after the Last Glacial Maximum.
The results suggested a complex history of the peopling of Pamirs through multiple waves of migrations from various genetic resources on different timescales. The Highland Tajiks were early arrivals whereas the Highland Kyrgyz people are recent immigrants.
The collaborative study has been published online in European Journal of Human Genetics (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41431-017-0028-8). This study was supported by grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (31301026), Science & Technology Department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (201491188), and Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central Asia, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
A traditional yurt in the Pamirs, Pamiri Tajik, and West Pamir Kyrgyz (Photo by Dr. XU Feng)