An informative set of biallelic polymorphisms was used to study the structure of Y-chromosome variability in a sample from the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sicily, and compared with data on Sardinia to gain insights into the ethnogenesis of these island populations. The results were interpreted in a broader Mediterranean context by including in the analysis neighboring populations previously studied with the same methodology. All samples studied were enclosed in the comparable spectrum of European Y-chromosome variability. Pronounced differences were observed between the islands as well as in the percentages of haplotypes previously shown to have distinctive patterns of continental phylogeography. Approximately 60% of the Sicilian haplotypes are also prevalent in Southern Italy and Greece. Conversely, the Corsican sample had elevated levels of alternative haplotypes common in Northern Italy. Sardinia showed a haplotype ratio similar to that observed in Corsica, but with a remarkable difference in the presence of a lineage defined by marker M26, which approaches 35% in Sardinia but seems absent in Corsica. Although geographically adjacent, the data suggest different colonization histories and a minimal amount of recent gene flow between them. Our results identify possible ancestral continental sources of the various island populations and underscore the influence of founder effect and genetic drift. The Y-chromosome data are consistent with comparable mtDNA data at the RFLP haplogroup level of resolution, as well as linguistic and historic knowledge.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.