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Question about the * in M*

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  • Question about the * in M*

    I have a friend who's result from the Genographic Project put her in haplogroup M*. I understand that M is one of the two haplogroups which mark the major migrations out of Africa. The way it seems to be explained in the little video blurb that comes with the result is that M* means all the subgroups of M other than M1 which stayed in or returned to Africa. Elsewhere, specifically in a paper co-authored by Dr Spencer Wells, a tree diagram shows M branching into D, G, C, Z and M*. This would seem to include M1 as a subgroup of M* while excluding others which on the first definition would seem to be included. I'm guessing it might be relative to the context, with the * denoting the other subgroups that are not being discussed or haven't been tested for at the time. Is anyone out there any clearer on this than I am?

  • #2
    As far as I know the asterisk (*) is used to make computation of the group M ages independent form its sub-clades. So M* is more or less the same as M. In other words M* is a sub-clade in which mutation had not occured unlike M1,M2,etc. See the explanation to Fig.1 in this text:
    That's what I think but you should see some more answers for I might be wrong.


    • #3
      Thanks for your response. I think what you say is correct. I’ve done a bit more googling and found another paper at which seems to be the document which has standardised the nomenclature for the Y-chromosome (I assume the asterisk would be used the same way in the mtDNA nomenclature though I couldn’t find a similar source for it). It says that * groups should be called paragroups rather than haplogroups and “For example, paragroup B* belongs to the B clade; however, it does not fall into haplogroup B1 or B2 … [they] are highly sensitive to changes in tree topology. Thus, the * symbol cautions that a given paragroup name may refer to different sets of chromosomes in succeeding versions of the phylogeny.”

      The * seems to mean then that it is a bit of a moving target. M* could later be divided into M1, M2 etc.

      It would still be helpful to know what it means in the case of the results given by the Genographic Project. In the paper I mentioned by Spencer Wells it seems to mean M but not subclades D, G, C or Z. The GP interactive map seems to have clear delineations for M1, which stayed in Africa, and D, G, C and Z which migrated North through Asia and into America and M* which made the coastal migration through India, South East Asia and Australia. I’d assume that we should take it that M* therefore means M but not D, G, C, Z nor M1.

      However, the blurb for the results also says that “M is a macrohaplogroup whose sub groups are also found in Eastern Eurasia, Eastern Asia (M7, M8), America (C,D) … “ This suggests that subclades such as M7 and M8 are also defined and that M* might exclude them also. My guess is that it doesn’t (she’s Indonesian so she likely might fit into subclade M7 or M8) and that it is merely that the test weren’t specific enough to clarify this or that further research is needed to more clearly put the GP results into these subclades. Either way it would be useful to know exactly what it means.