Because of the widespread phenomenon of patrilocality, it is hypothesized that Y-chromosome variants tend to be more localized geographically than those of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Empirical evidence confirmatory to this hypothesis was subsequently provided among certain patrilocal and matrilocal groups of Thailand, which conforms to the isolation by distance mode of gene diffusion. However, we expect intuitively that the patterns of genetic variability may not be consistent with the above hypothesis among populations with different social norms governing the institution of marriage, particularly among those that adhere to strict endogamy rules. We test the universality of this hypothesis by analyzing Y-chromosome and mtDNA data in three different sets of Indian populations that follow endogamy rules to varying degrees. Our analysis of the Indian patrilocal and the matrilocal groups is not confirmatory to the sex-specific variation observed among the tribes of Thailand. Our results indicate spatial instability of the impact of different cultural processes on the genetic variability, resulting in the lack of universality of the hypothesized pattern of greater Y-chromosome variation when compared to that of mtDNA among the patrilocal populations.
In most human societies, women traditionally move to their husband's home after marriage, and these societies are thus “patrilocal,” but in a few “matrilocal” societies, men move to their wife's home. These social customs are expected to influence the patterns of genetic variation. They should lead to a localization of male-specific Y-chromosomal variants and wide dispersal of female-specific mitochondrial DNA variants in patrilocal societies and vice versa in matrilocal societies. These predicted patterns have indeed been observed in previous studies of populations from Thailand. Indian societies, however, are endogamous, so marriage should always take place within a population, and these different patterns of genetic variation should not build up. The authors have now analyzed ten patrilocal and five matrilocal Indian populations, and find that there is indeed little difference between the patrilocal and matrilocal societies. The authors therefore conclude that patterns of genetic variation in humans are not universal, but depend on local cultural practices.