The African Sahel is conducive to studies of divergence/admixture genetic events as a result of its population history being so closely related with past climatic changes. Today, it is a place of the co-existence of two differing food-producing subsistence systems, i.e., that of sedentary farmers and nomadic pastoralists, whose populations have likely been formed from several dispersed indigenous hunter-gatherer groups. Using new methodology, we show here that the male gene pool of the extant populations of the African Sahel harbors signatures of multiple and differentiated contributions from different genetic sources. We also show that even if the Fulani pastoralists and their neighboring farmers share high frequencies of four Y chromosome subhaplogroups of E, they have drawn on molecularly differentiated subgroups at different times. These findings, based on combinations of SNP and STR polymorphisms, add to our previous knowledge and highlight the role of differences in the demographic history and displacements of the Sahelian populations as a major factor in the segregation of the Y chromosome lineages in Africa. Interestingly, within the Fulani pastoralist population as a whole, a differentiation of the groups from Niger is characterized by their high presence of R1b-M343 and E1b1b1-M35. Moreover, the R1b-M343 is represented in our dataset exclusively in the Fulani group and our analyses infer a north-to-south African migration route during a recent past.
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