Research Highlight

Genetic study reveals Kerala's connection with Lakshadweep

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.56 Published online 8 May 2019

A man from Thangassarri village fishes in the Lakshadweep Sea.

Petrut Calinescu / Alamy Stock Photo

A majority of the human ancestry in the Lakshadweep islands, off the coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea, is largely derived from South Asia with minor influences from East and West Eurasia, geneticists have revealed1. Researchers at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad say the maternal ancestry of the islanders is closest to the Kerala population.

Lakshadweep is an archipelago of about 35 islands, scattered over 78,000 square kilometres with a population of about 65,000. 

"Though it has been a stopover in maritime routes since ancient times, it is not very clear when humans first occupied these islands," says Kumarasamy Thangaraj, the corresponding author. No genetic study had been conducted on these populations so far. 

The CCMB team carried out extensive DNA sampling of several major islanders and performed a high-resolution analysis of haploid markers.They analysed 557 people from eight major islands for mitochondrial DNA (to ascertain their maternal ancestry) and 166 people for Y chromosome markers (to find their paternal ancestry) and compared them with the neighbouring regions. 

They found that the maternal ancestry of the islanders was closer to southern Indian populations, closest to the Kerala populations with whom they share the language. “The paternal ancestry components of Lakshadweep are more similar to the Maldives, north India and Pakistan rather than Kerala. This suggests a gene flow to Lakshadweep from all of these regions," they report.

The sharing of many of the maternal lineages among islands of Lakshadweep indicates a high level of intra-island maternal gene flow, the report says.


1. Mustak, M. S. et al. The peopling of Lakshadweep Archipelago. Sci. Rep. 9, 6968 (2019) doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43384-3