Human Genetics

, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 34–42 | Cite as

Genetic evidence in support of a shared Eurasian-North African dairying origin

  • Sean MylesEmail author
  • Nourdine Bouzekri
  • Eden Haverfield
  • Mohamed Cherkaoui
  • Jean-Michel Dugoujon
  • Ryk Ward
Original Investigation


The process by which pastoralism and agriculture spread from the Fertile Crescent over the past 10,000 years has been the subject of intense investigation by geneticists, linguists and archaeologists. However, no consensus has been reached as to whether this Neolithic transition is best characterized by a demic diffusion (with a significant genetic input from migrating farmers) or a cultural diffusion (without substantial migration of farmers). Milk consumption and thus lactose tolerance are assumed to have spread with pastoralism and we propose that by looking at the relevant mutations in and around the lactase gene in human populations, we can gain insight into the origin(s) and spread of dairying. We genotyped the putatively causal allele for lactose tolerance (−13910T) and constructed haplotypes from several polymorphisms in and around the lactase gene (LCT) in three North African Berber populations and compared our results with previously published data. We found that the frequency of the −13910T allele predicts the frequency of lactose tolerance in several Eurasian and North African Berber populations but not in most sub-Saharan African populations. Our analyses suggest that contemporary Berber populations possess the genetic signature of a past migration of pastoralists from the Middle East and that they share a dairying origin with Europeans and Asians, but not with sub-Saharan Africans.


Lactase Lactose Tolerance Local Ancestry Causal Allele North African Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to all of the participants who donated blood samples, and to the people who aided in sample collection. In particular we would like to thank M. Abdellatif Baali and M. Kamel Hilali for the samples from Amizmiz; M. Pedro Moral, Mostafa Kandil and Nourdin Harich for the samples from Middle Atlas; Ms. Anne Cambon-Thomsen, Ghania Hariti and M.S. Issad for the samples from Ghardaia. This research received partial support within the framework of the OMLL (The Origin of Man, Language and Languages, EUROCORES Program) and benefited from funding from the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France). We thank Mark Stoneking and Dallas Swallow for helpful comments and Nic Timpson for technical assistance. SM was supported by a Wüest-Zirfass scholarship and a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). This paper is presented in memory of Ryk Ward.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean Myles
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nourdine Bouzekri
    • 1
  • Eden Haverfield
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mohamed Cherkaoui
    • 4
  • Jean-Michel Dugoujon
    • 5
  • Ryk Ward
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Biological AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of Evolutionary GeneticsMax-Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyGermany
  3. 3.Department of Human GeneticsUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Laboratoire d’Ecologie Humaine, Faculté des Sciences-SemlaliaUniversité Cadi AyyadMorocco
  5. 5.Centre d’Anthropologie CNRS,University of ToulouseFrance

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