Which of Cameroon's peoples have members of haplogroup A00?

Bonnie Schrack & Matthew Fomine Forka

$9,000Next Goal
This project was funded on:
11 November 2013
We're now aiming for a higher $9000 Stretch Goal in Round Two of our fundraising, for our groundbreaking research on the world's earliest-branching Y-chromosome lineage, A00. Its origins lie in the earliest days of humanity's emergence, the exact time very much in debate, but almost surely over 200,000 years ago. We first discovered it in early 2012, when the results of the Perrys' Y-DNA tests were unlike anything seen before. We learned that they have matches among some of the diverse peoples of Southwest Cameroon. The new samples to be collected by Matthew in his homeland will allow us to learn much more about A00.

What are the goals of this project?

Our research forms a part of the wider, global human project to understand the family tree that connects us all, both on a large scale and in detail. In 2012, we found a branch on the human Y-chromosome phylogenetic tree, haplogroup A00, that's far older than any other branch previously known, having its origins at the dawn of the human species' emergence. The only peoples on earth it's known to exist among are a few African-Americans, and Cameroonians of certain ethnic groups.
This research will begin to give us a picture of its true distribution and history. By collecting samples from a diverse range of ethnic groups in Cameroon, starting with those where A00 is known to occur, we hope to map it, and by analyzing the patterns of relationship between different A00 lineages, and the complex histories of these peoples, with their widely varying social structures and ecological adaptations, we hope to understand much more about A00's place in human history.

Why is this research important?

As today's world gets smaller through instant worldwide communication, we are still divided by our lack of awareness of our common origins and shared human family history. We hope to contribute to revealing this and bringing people around the world more awareness of their African roots.
The human family tree is being revolutionized by the "big data" becoming available to us through next-generation DNA sequencing. We're gaining a tremendous amount of detail about the multitudes of small, recent branches...but we can also delve deeper into our earliest history as a species.

Data collected previously by historian Matthew Fomine Forka Leypey, of the Mbo ethnic group, show that A00 can be found among a number of different peoples of Cameroon -- a world biodiversity hotspot. New samples from Mbo, Bangwa, Bamileke, Banyang, and Baka, Gyele and Bedzan ethnicities, and more advanced testing than was previously possible, in combination with local, historical and ethnographic knowledge of these peoples, will help us gain a much clearer picture of who our A00 brothers really are, and glimpse some of their long journey.

How will the funds be used?

Our first fundraising campaign was a huge success, so we have what we need to launch our fieldwork, but we need to be ready to test the samples! And as it turns out, we also need funds to purchase the swab kits with which Matthew will collect the samples. He will be traveling to several villages in his own Nkongho-Mbo area; with the shared language and ethnic identity, he may be able to collect a large number of samples there, perhaps 200 or more. If the data we have from past sampling is a good indicator, we might find up to 10% who are A00. This also holds true of the neighboring Bangwa region, his second destination. He hopes to collect as many as 150 samples there. To test so many samples is not cheap, though we're seeking the most economical arrangements we can for testing.


Budget Overview

Our new goal, $9000, should be enough to pay for:

* 400 Swab kits
* DNA extraction and PCR
* 2 SNPs tested in these samples, to screen for A00 and A0
* Microryza fees

400 kits should give Matthew plenty to work with, to collect the 384 samples which are our goal. The lab work is done in multiples of 96 samples, with 384 being optimal.

Meet the Researcher


Bonnie and Matthew got to know each other as a result of our first paper on A00, "An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree," of which we were co-authors.

Matthew, a doctoral candidate in History, was the collector of the original Mbo DNA samples -- among many others -- from Cameroon, which testing found to belong to the same extraordinary branch as the Y chromosome of the Perry family in the U.S.

Bonnie, a long-time volunteer project administrator, had organized the testing of the members of the A Haplogroup Project, including the Perrys, leading to the discovery of A00 as well as several other early branches of the tree.

We could see that the mere discovery of A00's existence was only the first step; so much more can be learned. We decided to work together to collect DNA samples from key ethnic groups across Cameroon, which could give a far more complete picture of A00's distribution, frequency, and diversity.

Given the unexpected, involuntary departure of our friends, Thomas and Astrid Krahn, from their lab at Family Tree DNA, we're still in the process of making the arrangements for the lab or labs that will be doing our testing. We're close to having it finalized, and we've made enough progress to be confident that our figures for the budget are on target. By next week, we should be able to announce which company we're going with.

This phase of fundraising will cover the all-important screening of the Mbo and Bangwa samples, to discover which of them are A00. When this is done, we'll also have the extracted DNA ready for the further tests we'll do to learn more about A00.

That testing, to measure the diversity amongst A00 lineages, should include some SNPs and some STRs, to allow us to see clustering patterns among them. The exact number of markers to be tested will be determined as our research progresses.

Sequencing full Y chromosomes of one or several A00 samples is definitely planned -- stay tuned!

Project Backers

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