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Genetic and linguistic non-correspondence suggests evidence for collective social climbing in the Kol tribe of South Asia

  • Srivastava, Anshika1
  • Singh, Prajjval Pratap1
  • Bandopadhyay, Audditiya1
  • Singh, Pooja1
  • Das, Debashruti1
  • Tamang, Rakesh2
  • Chaubey, Akhilesh Kumar3
  • Shrivastava, Pankaj4
  • van Driem, George5, 6
  • Chaubey, Gyaneshwer1, 7
  • 1 Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, 221005, India , Varanasi (India)
  • 2 University of Calcutta, Kolkata, 700019, India , Kolkata (India)
  • 3 Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Singrauli, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalay, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, 462038, India , Jabalpur (India)
  • 4 DNA Fingerprinting Unit, State Forensic Science Laboratory, Department of Home (Police), Government of MP, Sagar, 470001, India , Sagar (India)
  • 5 Universität Bern, Bern, 3012, Switzerland , Bern (Switzerland)
  • 6 University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia , Sydney (Australia)
  • 7 University of Tartu, Tartu, 51010, Estonia , Tartu (Estonia)
Published Article
Scientific Reports
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Mar 27, 2020
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-61941-z
Springer Nature


Both classical and recent genetic studies have unanimously concluded that the genetic landscape of South Asia is unique. At long distances the ‘isolation-by-distance’ model appears to correspond well with the genetic data, whereas at short distances several other factors, including the caste, have been shown to be strong determinant factors. In addition with these, tribal populations speaking various languages add yet another layer of genetic complexity. The Kol are the third most populous tribal population in India, comprising communities speaking Austroasiatic languages of the Northern Munda branch. Yet, the Kol have not hitherto undergone in-depth genetic analysis. In the present study, we have analysed two Kol groups of central and western India for hundreds thousands of autosomal and several mitochondrial DNA makers to infer their fine genetic structure and affinities to other Eurasian populations. In contrast, with their known linguistic affinity, the Kol share their more recent common ancestry with the Indo-European and Dravidian speaking populations. The geographic-genetic neighbour tests at both the temporal and spatial levels have suggested some degree of excess allele sharing of Kol1 with Kol2, thereby indicating their common stock. Our extensive analysis on the Kol ethnic group shows South Asia to be a living genetics lab, where real-time tests can be performed on existing hypotheses.

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