Serbian Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

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Serbs are an ethnic group living in the Balkan peninsula. They are largely found in Serbia as well as in Montenegro and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serbian language belongs to the South Slavic family and is written using Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. Serbs have genetic similarities to other South Slavic ethnic groups.

Major studies of Serbs

1. Marijana Peričić, L. B. Lauc, I. M. Klarić, et al. "High-resolution phylogenetic analysis of southeastern Europe traces major episodes of paternal gene flow among Slavic populations." Molecular Biology and Evolution 22:10 (October 2005): pages 1964-1975. First published electronically on June 8, 2005.
2. Damir Marjanović, S. Fornarino, S. Montagna, et al. "The peopling of modern Bosnia-Herzegovina: Y-chromosome haplogroups in the three main ethnic groups." Annals of Human Genetics 69 (Part 6) (November 2005): pages 757-763. Includes data from 81 male Serbs.
The following information was obtained from these two studies:
Serbs who live in Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina belong predominantly to the following Y-chromosomal haplogroups:

  • I2a (I-P37.2), their most common haplogroup, found among 29.2% of Serbian Serbs and 30.9% of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Serbs. It peaks in the Herzegovina region. Other Slavic peoples also carry I2a. Geneticists believe that I2a ultimately originated in the Balkans about 10,000 years ago.
  • E1b1b1a2 (E-V13), their second-most common haplogroup, found among about 20% of male Serbs (20.4% in Serbia, 19.8% in Bosnia and Herzegovina). It is also found among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia and among Romani in Macedonia. Geneticists estimate that E-V13 originated in the southern Balkans about 9,000 years ago.
  • R1a1 (R-M17) is found at rates of 15.93% among Serbian Serbs and 13.6% among Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is a common haplogroup among Slavic peoples. It is more frequently encountered among Poles and Ukrainians.
  • R1b1b2 (R-M269) is found at rates of 10.62% among Serbian Serbs and 6.2% among Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is more commonly encountered in western Europe, with a peak among the Welsh. However, it entered Europe about 7,500 years ago among farmers who came from western Anatolia, and the Serbians' variety of R1b1b2 clusters with peoples of eastern Europe and central Europe and differs from the western European variety as well as from a variety found among Greeks.
  • K-M9 is found among a little over 7% of Serbian men.
  • J2b (J-M102) is found among 4.4% of Serbian Serbs and 6.2% of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is ultimately of Middle Eastern origin, and arrived with the migrating farmers from Anatolia.
  • I1 (I-M253) is found among 5.31% of Serbian Serbs but only 2.5% of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • F (F-M89) is found among 4.9% of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's absent among Serbs in Serbia.
  • J2a1b1 (J-M92) is found among 2.7% of Serbs in Serbia. It's absent among Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is of Middle Eastern origin.
  • The above study by Marjanović et al. includes principal component analysis (PCA) of Y-DNA haplogroup frequencies among Balkan peoples which revealed that Serbs are genetically closer to Bosniaks than to Croats.

    Emir Šehović, Martin Zieger, L. Spahić, D. Marjanović, and S. Dogan. "A glance of genetic relations in the Balkan populations utilizing network analysis based on in silico assigned Y-DNA haplogroups." Anthropological Review 81:3 (2018): pages 252-268. Published electronically on October 31, 2018.
          Table 3 lists the following Y-DNA haplogroup proportions among the study's Serbian samples: 39.8% I2a, 17.3% E1b1b, 14.6% R1a, 4.8% R1b, 5.8% I1, 0.5% J1, 2.6% J2a, 1.6% J2b.

    Vincenza Battaglia, Simona Fornarino, Nadia Al-Zahery, et al. "Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe." European Journal of Human Genetics 17:6 (June 2009): pages 820-830. First published electronically on December 24, 2008.
           Data from 81 male Serbs is compared with data from over a thousand males from other ethnic groups from the Balkans and beyond.

    Maria Regueiro, Luis Rivera, Tatjana Damnjanovic, Ljiljana Lukovic, Jelena Milasin, and Rene J. Herrera. "High levels of Paleolithic Y-chromosome lineages characterize Serbia." Gene 498:1 (April 25, 2012): pages 59-67.
           This study sampled the Y-DNA of 103 Serbian males. 58% of them belong to pre-Neolithic paternal lineages.

    Krzysztof Rębała, A. I. Mikulich, I. S. Tsybovsky, D. Siváková, Z. Drupinková, A. Szczerkowska-Dobosz, and Z. Szczerkowska. "Y-STR variation among Slavs: Evidence for the Slavic homeland in the middle Dnieper basin." Journal of Human Genetics 52:5 (2007): pages 406-414.
           Serbs belong to a Y-DNA cluster that also includes Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Macedonian Slavs, and southern Croats. It is distinguished from the Y-DNA cluster that includes western Croats, Slovenes, West Slavs, and East Slavs. The authors indicate that this distinction is probably caused by South Slavs' admixture with pre-Slavic Balkan peoples.

    Slobodan Davidović, Boris Abramovich Malyarchuk, Jelena M. Aleksic, Miroslava V. Derenko, Vladanka Topalovic, Andrey Litvinov, Milena Stevanovic, and Natasa Kovacevic-Grujicic. "Mitochondrial DNA perspective of Serbian genetic diversity." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 156:3 (March 2015): pages 449-465. First published electronically on November 24, 2014.
           139 Serbians had their mtDNA analyzed and compared with other Slavic and Balkan peoples. Excerpts from the Abstract:

    "[...] The contemporary Serbian mtDNA profile is consistent with the general European maternal landscape having a substantial proportion of shared haplotypes with eastern, central, and southern European populations. Serbian population was characterized as an important link between easternmost and westernmost south-Slavic populations due to the observed lack of genetic differentiation with all other south-Slavic populations and its geographical positioning within the Balkan Peninsula. An increased heterogeneity of south Slavs, most likely mirroring turbulent demographic events within the Balkan Peninsula over time (i.e., frequent admixture and differential introgression of various gene pools), and a marked geographical stratification of Slavs to south-, east-, and west-Slavic groups, were also found. A phylogeographic analyses of 20 completely sequenced Serbian mitochondrial genomes revealed not only the presence of mtDNA lineages predominantly found within the Slavic gene pool (U4a2a*, U4a2a1, U4a2c, U4a2g, HV10), supporting a common Slavic origin, but also lineages that may have originated within the southern Europe (H5*, H5e1, H5a1v) and the Balkan Peninsula in particular (H6a2b and L2a1k)."

    Slobodan Davidovic, Boris Malyarchuk, Tomasz Grzybowski, Jelena M. Aleksic, Miroslava Derenko, Andrey Litvinov, Urszula Rogalla-Ładniak, Milena Stevanovic, and Natasa Kovacevic-Grujicic. "Complete mitogenome data for the Serbian population: the contribution to high-quality forensic databases." International Journal of Legal Medicine 134 (June 6, 2020): pages 1581-1590.
           226 Serbians had their mtDNA sampled for this study. The researchers distinguished 143 different subclades among them and predictably found that "West Eurasian ones were dominant". Some of the names they gave to these subclades have not yet been officially recognized by the PhyloTree and include new branches under haplogroups H, H1, H5, H7, H13, H30, V6, and W3.

    Krzysztof Rębała, I. Veselinović, D. Siváková, E. Patskun, S. Kravchenko, and Z. Szczerkowska. "Northern Slavs from Serbia do not show a founder effect at autosomal and Y-chromosomal STRs and retain their paternal genetic heritage." Forensic Science International: Genetics 8:1 (January 2014): pages 126-131. First published electronically on September 4, 2013.
           Serbs from northern Serbia were among the populations who had 15 autosomal STR markers studied here. Serbian males also had 17 Y-chromosomal STR loci genotyped. According to Table S4, 15.1% of the Serbs in this study carry the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a. Excerpts from the Abstract:

    "[...] Genetic distances for autosomal markers revealed homogeneity between Serbs from northern Serbia and Slovaks from western Slovakia and distinctiveness of Serbian Slovaks and Ruthenians. Y-STR variation showed a clear genetic departure of the Slovaks and Ruthenians inhabiting Vojvodina from their Serbian neighbours [...] Admixture estimates revealed negligible Serbian paternal ancestry in both Northern Slavic minorities of Vojvodina, providing evidence for their genetic isolation from the Serbian majority population. [...] Analysis of molecular variance detected significant population stratification of autosomal and Y-chromosomal microsatellites in the three Slavic populations of northern Serbia, [...] Our results demonstrate that regarding Y-STR haplotypes, Serbian Slovaks and Ruthenians fit in the Eastern European metapopulation defined in the Y chromosome haplotype reference database."

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