No mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from Chadic-speaking peoples have yet been reported, even though these populations inhabit a vast territory from eastern Nigeria to central Chad. This paper deals with the mtDNA sequences of four Central Chadic populations (Hide, Kotoko, Mafa and Masa) from northern Cameroon, biological samples from which were collected during anthropological research in the area of their homeland. OBJECTIVE: The main goals of this article are to report new mtDNA sequences of Chadic-speaking populations, to analyse their genetic diversity and to establish their relationships within the peri-Saharan area in respect of geography and languages. SUBJECT AND METHODS: The analyses are based on 104 mtDNA haplotypes, which can be localized into four different areas of northern Cameroon. Data collection was based on a strict geographical sampling strategy; the ethnonyms are retained here only for comparative purposes.
RESULTS: None of the examined Chadic populations displays a departure from the normal mismatch distribution pattern, and the null hypothesis of the expansion event cannot be rejected. Analyses of molecular variance and F(ST) genetic distances revealed that the Chadic-speaking groups of northern Cameroon share more similarities with the populations of the Upper and Middle Nile Valley and East Africa than with populations from Central Africa. The results show geographical clustering to be more important than the correlation of linguistic affiliations with molecular genetic data.
CONCLUSION: The observation that the Chadic group reveals some affinities to East Africans is extremely surprising giving the present-day geographical distance (around 2000 km) between them. These observations complement recent linguistic and archaeological findings, which consider the Chadic branch in the Afro-Asiatic phylum to be of eastern origin. A continuous, well-defined, geographic sampling strategy of the different genetic polymorphisms of the native populations of sub-Saharan Africa is further needed as the only way of understanding the differentiation of the mtDNA sequences at a micro-regional scale.
For a location, Chadic speaking people range across from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic and Cameroon.