After an intensive bibliographic search, we compiled all the available data on allele frequencies for classical genetic polymorphisms referring to North African populations and synthesized the data in an attempt to reconstruct the populations’ demographic history using two complementary methods: (1) principal components analysis and (2) genetic distances represented by neighbor-joining trees. In both analyses the main feature of the genetic landscape in northern Africa is an eastwest pattern of variation pointing to the differentiation between the Berber and Arab population groups of the northwest and the populations of Libya and Egypt. Moreover, Libya and Egypt show the smallest genetic distances with the European populations, including the Iberian Peninsula. The most plausible interpretation of these results is that, although demic diffusion during the Neolithic could explain the genetic similarity between northeast Africa and Europe by a parallel process of gene flow from the Near East, a Mesolithic (or older) differentiation of the populations in the northwestern regions with later limited gene flow is needed to understand the genetic picture. The most isolated groups (Mauritanians, Tuaregs, and south Algerian Berbers) were the most differentiated and, although no clear structure can be discerned among the different Arab- and Berber-speaking groups, Arab speakers as a whole are closer to Egyptians and Libyans. By contrast, the genetic contribution of sub-Saharan Africa appears to be small.
Bosch, E.; Calafell, F.; Pérez-Lezaun, A.; Comas, D.; Mateu, E.; and Bertranpetit, J.
"Population History of North Africa: Evidence from Classical Genetic Markers,"
3, Article 13.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol69/iss3/13