Cavalli-Sforza and coauthors originally explored the genetic variation of modern humans throughout the world and observed an overall east-west genetic gradient in Asia. However, the specific environmental and population genetics processes causing this gradient were not formally investigated and promoted discussion in recent studies. Here we studied the influence of diverse environmental and population genetics processes on Asian genetic gradients and identified which could have produced the observed gradient. To do so, we performed extensive spatially-explicit computer simulations of genetic data under the following scenarios: (i) variable levels of admixture between Paleolithic and Neolithic populations, (ii) migration through long-distance dispersal (LDD), (iii) Paleolithic range contraction induced by the last glacial maximum (LGM) and, (iv) Neolithic range expansions from one or two geographic origins (the Fertile Crescent and the Yangzi and Yellow River Basins). Next, we estimated genetic gradients from the simulated data and we found that they were sensible to the analyzed processes, especially to the range contraction induced by LGM and to the number of Neolithic expansions. Some scenarios were compatible with the observed east-west genetic gradient, such as the Paleolithic expansion with a range contraction induced by the LGM or two Neolithic range expansions from both the east and the west. In general, LDD increased the variance of genetic gradients among simulations. We interpreted the obtained gradients as a consequence of both allele surfing caused by range expansions and isolation by distance along the vast east-west geographic axis of this continent.
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