Sicilian provinces: Population subdivisions revealed by surname frequencies

A. De Silvestri, C. R. Guglielmino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Sicilian population has a complex history of colonization and invasions that have influenced the genetic composition of the nine provinces of the island. Because surnames are patrilineally inherited, they simulate a Y-chromosome nonrecombinant genetic locus. We used surname data and a specific sampling strategy to describe the major subdivisions in each province and for the whole island of Sicily. The high number of families per surname in two provinces can be related to inbreeding as a result of founder events. Each province shows a major division, which, according to local historical events, likely represents cultural and probably genetic differences between east and west, between north and south, or between the inner regions and the coastal area. On the island level surnames reproduce the same separation, obtained by others with genes, of the eastern area from the western area. The separation is attributed to Greek influence in the east and to Phoenician-Carthaginian-Norman influence in the west. This separation crosses the two central provinces of Agrigento and Caltanissetta.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-920
Number of pages20
JournalHuman Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004


  • Genetic structure
  • Population subdivision
  • Sicily
  • Surnames

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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