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Razib Khan
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 TeasersGene Expression Blog
Madagascar genetics

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Today there was a short article in Discover on a paper published last spring on the models for the settling of Madagascar. I didn’t pay too much attention when the paper came out for two reasons. First, it focused on Y and mtDNA, and I’ve been playing with Malagasy autosomes. Second, it seemed a ridiculously brutal computational attack on a question which seems to have a straightforward intuitive explanation: yes, Madagascar was settled by a small founding group. With hindsight I may have spoken too soon, or passed judgement too hastily. Looking at the paper the explicit model building of demography does still seem like overkill, but they obtain some important precision here. The phylogenetics and the archaeology align nicely.

Though the authors of the article talk about future directions, I think we will find that the Malagasy originate from a small group of Malayo-Polynesians who did find themselves stranded on Madagascar (later to absorb African admixture). This is not controversial. Rather, when I came to this position with enough solidity I began to look at the cultural anthropology of Madagascar. In particular, what do the Malagasy remember of about their own past in Southeast Asia? From what I could tell (the literature on Madagascar is not too rich in English) the Malagasy don’t recall much. This is important, because it tells us just how fragile oral memory can be when you have a major geographical and demographic rupture. The influence of Sanskrit is apparently evident within Malagasy, attesting to the early period if Indic influence in Southeast Asia. But the Malagasy are not part of Dharmic or Islamic civilization. They are the people forgotten by time. I think what little we know about the Malagasy can shed on light memories and legends preserved by peoples who we suspect were migrants into the only homelands they knew (e.g., how could the Aryans be exogenous if they didn’t record any memory of lands before India?).

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
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I would like to throw out the word that I am looking for a person with Malagasy ancestry for the African Ancestry Project. To my knowledge there are no thick marker autosomal analyses of the Malagasy people. After my recent exploration of Southeast Asian genetics I think even one individual would be highly informative.

As usual I would guarantee that these data are entirely private, and I do not share it with anyone. But in this case I would like to make an exception and stipulate that Joseph K. Pickrell, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, would also be very interested in access to a Malagasy genotype for the purposes of research. Since this is an undersampled population the marginal returns to a Malagasy genotype would be enormous for science, a public good rather than just a private gain.

Also, I am still looking for a Tutsi genotype so that I can ascertain the origin of this population.

Please contact me at africanancestryproject -at- gmail -dot- com.


Je recherche une personne d’origine malgache dans le cadre du projet “l’African Ancestry Project”.

A ma connaissance, il n’existe à ce jour aucune analyse des marqueurs autosomiques du peuple malgache. Ma récente exploration de la génétique d’Asie du Sud me laisse penser que même l’étude d’une seule personne resterait très instructive.

Je garantis que ces données resteront confidentielles et ne seront pas divulguées à des tiers, à l’exception de Joseph K. Pickrell, un étudiant en thèse à l’Université de Chicago, également très intéressé par l’accès à un génotype malgache pour des fins de recherche.

Cette population étant sous-échantillonnées, les rendements marginaux d’un génotype malgache seraient énormes pour le science et d’intérêt général.

Par ailleurs, je suis toujours à la recherche d’un génotype Tutsi afin de déterminer l’origine de cette population.

Merci de bien vouloir me contacter à africanancestryproject-at-gmail-point-com.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"