Carriers of human mitochondrial DNA macrohaplogroup M colonized India from southeastern Asia

Patricia Marrero, Khaled K. Abu-Amero, Jose M. Larruga, Vicente M. Cabrera

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Background: From a mtDNA dominant perspective, the exit from Africa of modern humans to colonize Eurasia occurred once, around 60 kya, following a southern coastal route across Arabia and India to reach Australia short after. These pioneers carried with them the currently dominant Eurasian lineages M and N. Based also on mtDNA phylogenetic and phylogeographic grounds, some authors have proposed the coeval existence of a northern route across the Levant that brought mtDNA macrohaplogroup N to Australia. To contrast both hypothesis, here we reanalyzed the phylogeography and respective ages of mtDNA haplogroups belonging to macrohaplogroup M in different regions of Eurasia and Australasia. 

Results: The macrohaplogroup M has a historical implantation in West Eurasia, including the Arabian Peninsula. Founder ages of M lineages in India are significantly younger than those in East Asia, Southeast Asia and Near Oceania. Moreover, there is a significant positive correlation between the age of the M haplogroups and its longitudinal geographical distribution. These results point to a colonization of the Indian subcontinent by modern humans carrying M lineages from the east instead the west side. 

Conclusions: The existence of a northern route, previously proposed for the mtDNA macrohaplogroup N, is confirmed here for the macrohaplogroup M. Both mtDNA macrolineages seem to have differentiated in South East Asia from ancestral L3 lineages. Taking this genetic evidence and those reported by other disciplines we have constructed a new and more conciliatory model to explain the history of modern humans out of Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Article number246
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2016


  • Human evolution
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Out of Africa

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