A joint research team under the leadership of Prof. FU Qiaomei of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) from the Chinese Academy of Sciences analyzed the ancient genomes of 31 individuals from southern East Asia, revealing a missing link in human prehistory.
The findings were made public in the journal Cell
The team relied on DNA capture technologies to extract the ancient DNA from Guangxi and Fujian, two regions of southern China.
They sequenced genome genome-wide DNA out of 31 specimens from between 11,747 and 194 years ago.
Two of them date back to over ten thousand years ago, thus being the oldest genomes sampled in the southern East Asia and Southeast Asia to date.
DNA analysis from the past revealed that 8,000-4,000-year-old Southeast Asian Hòabìnhian specimens had some deep divergent Asian ancestry, while the first Southeast Asian farmers (beginning four millennia ago) manifested a range of ancestry similar to the Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers and current-day southern Chinese people.
In coastal southern China, between 9,000 and 4,000 years ago, ancestors of the Fujian province feature traits not so strongly divergent from the Hòabìnhian.
In Guangxi, the researchers’ samples showed differences from the samples taken prior in Fujian and Southeast Asia.
They discovered a unique East Asian ancestral population depicted by the 11,000-year-old Longlin individual from Guangxi. The discoveries showed that 11,000 years ago, more than three genetically distinct ancestries formed the human landscape in southern East Asia and Southeast Asia – The Guangxi, Hòabìnhian, and Fujian ancestries.
Also, on top of manifesting Longlin ancestry, the Dushan and Baojianshan individuals in Guangxi also present definitive evidence for admixture in southern China between nine and six millennia ago.
The Dashan and Baojianshan were mixes of local Guangxi ancestries, southern ancestry formerly sampled in Fujian, and Deep Asian ancestry normally found in the Asian Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers.
In the past, it was believed that southern Chinese masses expanded to the southern region on the continent, mixing with and possibly replacing Hòabìnhians in Southeast Asia.
“While we now have a better understanding of the population history in the last 11,000 years at the crossroads of East and Southeast Asia, future sampling in regions near the Yangtze River and southwest China are needed for a comprehensive understanding of the genetic history of humans in southern China,” stated Prof. FU.