Document Type



The aboriginal populations living in the Nicobar Islands are hypothesized to be descendants of people who were part of early human dispersals into Southeast Asia. However, analyses of ethnographic histories, languages, morphometric data, and protein polymorphisms have not yet resolved which worldwide populations are most closely related to the Nicobarese. Thus, to explore the origins and affinities of the Nicobar Islanders, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region 1 sequence data from 33 Nicobarese Islanders and compared their mtDNA haplotypes to those of neighboring East Asians, mainland and island Southeast Asians, Indians, Australian aborigines, Pacific Islanders, and Africans. Unique Nicobarese mtDNA haplotypes, including five Nicobarese mtDNA haplotypes linked to the COII/tRNALys 9-bp deletion, are most closely related to mtDNA haplotypes from mainland Southeast Asian Mon-Kmer-speaking populations (e.g., Cambodians). Thus, the dispersal of southern Chinese into mainland Southeast Asia may have included a westward expansion and colonization of the islands of the Andaman Sea.