Corsican Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

by Kevin Alan Brook

Family Tree DNA - Genetic testing service
Family Tree DNA: Genetic Testing Service
Get genetically tested to discover your relationships to other families from your own ethnic group as well as others from the Mediterranean region and elsewhere. This company's "Corsica Genealugia / Corsica Genealogy Project" administered by Desideriu Ramelet Stuart is intended for people with Corsican Y-DNA lines.

Corsicans live on the island of Corsica, situated in the western Mediterranean Sea. It has been a territory of France since it was conquered in the 1760s. Most Corsicans practice Roman Catholicism.

The Corsican language (Corsu), part of the Italo-Dalmatian branch of the Romance linguistic family, is connected to the Tuscan language of Italy and also has influences from other regions of Italy. Recently the French language has also influenced Corsican.

Corsicans descend from a combination of ancient Corsi people from northeastern Sardinia and people who came over later from northern and central Italy (including Tuscans, Etruscans, Ligurians, and Romans) along with, to a lesser extent, Greeks and Carthaginians.

The Y-chromosomal haplogroup G2a2a2 (G-L91) is found in Corsica as well as Sardinia, Sicily, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Major studies of Corsicans

Julie Di Cristofaro, Stéphane Mazières, Audrey Tous, Cornelia Di Gaetano, Alice A. Lin, Paul Nebbia, Alberto Piazza, Roy J. King, Peter Underhill, and Jacques Chiaroni. "Prehistoric migrations through the Mediterranean basin shaped Corsican Y-chromosome diversity." PLOS ONE 13:8 (August 1, 2018): e0200641.
      This study focusing on 321 Y-DNA samples from Corsican men and comparing them to men from Provence (in France) and Tuscany (in Italy) intended "to trace the genetic signatures back to the first migrations to Corsica." Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] Results revealed highly differentiated haplogroup patterns among Corsican populations. Haplogroup G had the highest frequency in Corsica, mostly displaying a unique Y-STR profile. When compared with Provence and Tuscany, Corsican populations displayed limited genetic proximity. Corsican populations present a remarkable Y-chromosome genetic mixture. Although the Corsican Y-chromosome profile shows similarities with both Provence and to a lesser extent Tuscany, it mainly displays its own specificity. This study confirms the high level of genetic diversity in Corsican populations and backs genetic contributions from prehistoric migrations associated with the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Metal Age eras, rather than from historical movements to Corsica, respectively attested by frequencies and TMRCA of haplogroups G2a-L91 and G2a-P15, J2a-M241 and J2-DYS445 = 6, R1b-U152 and R1b-U106. These results suggest that marine routes to reach the Corsican coast in many different points may have led to such a genetic heterogeneity."

Paolo Francalacci, Laura Morelli, Peter A. Underhill, A. S. Lillie, G. Passarino, Antonella Useli, R. Madeddu, G. Paoli, S. Tofanelli, Carla Maria Calò, M. E. Ghiani, Laurent Varesi, Marc Memmi, Giuseppe Vona, A. A. Lin, P. Oefner, and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. "Peopling of Three Mediterranean Islands (Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily) Inferred by Y-Chromosome Biallelic Variability." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 121:3 (August 2003): pages 270-279.
      The authors compared and contrasted the Y-chromosomes of Corsicans, Sicilians, and Sardinians "to gain insights into the ethnogenesis of these island populations." Their Y-DNA frequencies and patterns were also compared with samples from mainland France, mainland Italy, Greece, and Catalonia. 34 Corsicans had their Y-DNA evaluated and 56 Corsicans had their mtDNA evaluated. The samples were gathered from inhabitants "around the towns of Corte in the center of the island, and Bastia in the north".

• Table 2 lists the Corsicans' Y-DNA haplotypes as follows:
M35 in 14.7%,
M89 in 2.9%,
M170 in 8.8%,
M172 in 2.9%,
M173 in 50%,
M201 in 11.8%,
and other haplotypes in 8.8%.
None of them had M26 even though it's common in neighboring Sardinia, and the authors conclude that "This observation excludes significant gene flow from central Sardinia to central-northern Corsica". Other than that, "Sardinia showed a haplotype ratio similar to that observed in Corsica". Overall, "the Corsican sample had elevated levels of alternative haplotypes common in Northern Italy."
Excerpt from pages 275-276:
"[...] The [Y-DNA] frequencies observed in the Corsican population seem to converge toward those detected in continental Italy, as shown by the Fst probability value that does not reach the significance level (Table 3). This may be due to other distinctive gene flows that overlaid a previous genetic heritage shared with Sardinia. This result is consistent with linguistic data showing that the Corsican language is more closely related to Tuscan than to the Sardinian language [...]"

• Table 1 lists the Corsicans' mtDNA haplogroups as follows:
H in 24 samples,
J in 6 samples,
K in 7 samples,
T in 5 samples,
U in 6 samples,
X in 5 samples,
and other haplogroups in 3 samples.

Laura Morelli, M. G. Grosso, Giuseppe Vona, Laurent Varesi, A. Torroni, and Paolo Francalacci. "Frequency distribution of mitochondrial DNA haplogroups in Corsica and Sardinia." Human Biology 72:4 (August 2000): pages 585-595.
      The authors analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymorphisms in people living in Corsica and Sardinia. 56 participants came from the Corte region of central Corsica. They were compared and contrasted with 96 samples from two areas on the island of Sardinia that lies south of Corsica. About 40% of the Corsicans belong to the mtDNA haplogroup H. 8.9% of the Corsicans (5 samples) belong to haplogroup T and most of them (4 samples) were found to have "a restriction fragment length polymorphism found only in this population. It seems that this mutation originated in Corsica and has had time to spread in the area, since the maternal grandmothers of the subjects came from different villages of the island." Haplogroups J, K, U, and X were also found among the Corsican samples and are common in other European populations too. Excerpt from the Abstract:

"[...] Gallura and Corsica seem to have undergone a more recent peopling event, possibly related to the arrival of new mitochondrial variability from continental Italy, [...]"

M.-C. Grimaldi, B. Crouau-Roy, L. Contu, and J. P. Amoros. "Molecular variation of HLA class I genes in the Corsican population: approach to its origin." European Journal of Immunogenetics 29:2 (April 2002): pages 101-107. Abstract:

"Three human leucocyte antigen (HLA) class I loci (HLA-A, -B and -Cw) were typed for the first time at the DNA level in the Corsican population. This analysis was performed on 100 individuals of Corsican origin living in central Corsica (46 individuals) and in south-western Corsica (54 individuals). The genetic structure of these two subpopulations was analysed on the basis of the molecular polymorphisms of the HLA-A, -B and -Cw genes. A phylogenetic and a haplotypic analysis were performed. The genotypic analysis did not detect genetic differentiation. Examination of the allelic and haplotypic frequencies did, however, reveal some significant differences between the two zones. Similarities with the Sardinian population were found, and were particularly evident in the south-western sample. However, Corsica has probably been subject to greater West European influence, which can be seen in the Corte sample (Haute Corse)."

Roy J. King, Julie Di Cristofaro, Anastasia Kouvatsi, Costas Triantaphyllidis, Walter Scheidel, Natalie M. Myres, Alice A. Lin, Alexandre Eissautier, Michael Mitchell, Didier Binder, Ornella Semino, Andrea Novelletto, Peter A. Underhill, and Jacques Chiaroni. "The coming of the Greeks to Provence and Corsica: Y-chromosome models of archaic Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean." BMC Evolutionary Biology 11:69 (March 14, 2011).
      Y-DNA SNPs and STRs from both East Corsican and West Corsican samples were compared with Provençal French people from Provence in southern mainland France and with Anatolian Greeks with ancestry from Smyrna and Asia Minor Phokaia. The Y-DNA haplogroup E-V13 is known to be "characteristic of the Greek and Balkan mainland". It was found among 19% of the Phokaian samples and 12% of the Smyrnian samples as well as among 4% of the Provençal Frenchmen, 4.6% of East Corsicans, and 1.6% of West Corsicans.

Veronica Latini, Gabriella Sole, Silvia Doratiotto, Daniela Poddie, Marc Memmi, Laurent Varesi, Giuseppe Vona, Antonio Cao, and Maria Serafina Ristaldi. "Genetic isolates in Corsica (France): linkage disequilibrium extension analysis on the Xq13 region." European Journal of Human Genetics 12 (2004): pages 613-619. First published online on April 28, 2004.
      The researchers examined the "background LD [linkage disequilibrium] extension in some subpopulations of Corsica."

Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] Recent evidence has highlighted that the genetic proximity between the populations of Corsica and Sardinia is particularly true for the internal conservative populations. [...] In the present study, we have analyzed the LD extension on the Xq13 genomic region in three subpopulations of Corsica: Corte, Niolo and Bozio, all located in the mountainous north-center of the island. Our results show a strong degree of LD over long distance for the population of Bozio and to a less extent for the population of Niolo. Their LD extent is comparable to or higher than that reported for other isolates."

Excerpts from the body of the paper:

[...] According to mitochondrial DNA sequence variations, the Sardinian-Corsica block was peopled in a period between 14 000 and 78 000 years ago (Paleolithic period), through the Tuscany island during the last glaciation (Wurm), when the sea level was lower. After the physical separation (during the Pleistocene period), the population of the two islands fell apart even though a reduced, but constant genetic flow remains between north Sardinia and southern Corsica. For both islands, genetic drift, isolation and low population numbers have played a strong part in their genetic shaping. Sardinia and Corsica were invaded several times, often by the same populations. In the great majority of cases, these invasions were limited to the coast and left slight marks on the gene pool of the native populations. Strong evidence also suggests an internal microgeographic diversity inside Sardinia and Corsica, with the most conserved population located in the center of the two islands on the mountainous regions. The internal conserved populations of Sardinia and Corsica are also genetically closer between the two islands. [...]"

Veronica Latini, Lucia Vacca, Maria Serafina Ristaldi, Maria Franca Marongiu, Marc Memmi, Laurent Varesi, and Giuseppe Vona. "beta-Globin cluster haplotypes in Corsica and Sardinia populations." Human Biology 75:6 (2003): pages 855-871. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] The results show a remarkable heterogeneity within the two islands. However, the presence of rare haplotypes common to the most conservative areas (Nuoro and Corte) of the two islands is particularly interesting. These data support the hypothesis of a common origin of the populations of Sardinia and Corsica during the middle and upper Paleolithic periods and could be interpreted as a founder effect."

S. Tofanelli, L. Taglioli, Laurent Varesi, and G. Paoli. "The STR-based genetic profile of the population from Corsica island (France)." Forensic Science International 121 (2001): pages 33-38.
      STR autosomal markers show considerable differentiation between Corsican people from northern and southern Corsica and Sardinian people from southern and central Sardinia. Corsicans have "a high level of heterogeneity".

Pedro Moral, Meritxell Bao, Emili González, A. Lopez-Alomar, Laurent Varesi, Marc Memmi, and Giuseppe Vona. "Alu polymorphisms in Corsica and Sardinia: New evidence for the genetic position of Corsican population within Western Mediterranean." Antropologia Contemporanea 22 (1999): pages 77-86.
      Alu polymorphisms in autosomal DNA show considerable differentiation between Corsican people from northern and southern Corsica and Sardinian people from southern and central Sardinia.

Carla Maria Calò, Lucia Vacca, and Giuseppe Vona. "Analysis of Selected Microsatellites in 4 Regions of Corsica (France)." Antropologia Contemporanea, monografia (1999): pages 87-98.

Pedro Moral, Marc Memmi, Laurent Varesi, G. E. Mameli, V. Succa, B. Gutierrez, N. Lutken, and Giuseppe Vona. "Study on the variability of seven genetic serum protein markers in Corsica (France)." Anthropologischer Anzeiger 54 (1996): pages 97-107. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] The distribution of seven genetic serum protein markers (PI, TF, GC, ORM, HP, C3, PLG) was analyzed in a sample of 291 individuals coming from the central and northern areas of Corsica, i.e. from Corte and Bastia. The two samples do not show significant differences in the distribution of the genetic markers under study. The comparisons with other Mediterranean populations confirm the results of previous investigations on genetic red cell enzyme markers (Vona et al. 1995), i.e. a relatively high genetic heterogeneity of Corsicans compared with other Mediterranean populations."

Erika Tamm, Julie Di Cristofaro, Stéphane Mazières, Erwan Pennarun, Alena Kushniarevich, Alessandro Raveane, Ornella Semino, Jacques Chiaroni, Luisa Pereira, Mait Metspalu, and Francesco Montinaro. "Genome-wide analysis of Corsican population reveals a close affinity with Northern and Central Italy." Scientific Reports 9 (September 19, 2019): article number 13581.
      This autosomal DNA study includes 16 Corsican samples the team newly collected "from different locations on the island". They were compared to 33 previously-gathered Corsican samples and to non-Corsican ethnicities from West Eurasia and North Africa. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] Allele frequency, haplotype-based, and ancient genome analyses suggest that although Sardinia and Corsica may have witnessed similar isolation and migration events, the latter is genetically closer to populations from continental Europe, such as Northern and Central Italians."

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