Skip to comments.Pacific Islandersí Ancestry Emerges in Genetic Study
Posted on 01/18/2008 6:57:04 AM PST by Dysart
The ancestral relationships of people living in the widely scattered islands of the Pacific Ocean, long a puzzle to anthropologists, may have been solved by a new genetic study, researchers reported Thursday.
In an analysis of the DNA of 1,000 individuals from 41 Pacific populations, an international team of scientists found strong evidence showing that Polynesians and Micronesians in the central and eastern islands had almost no genetic relationship to Melanesians, in the western islands like Papua New Guinea and the Bismarck and Solomons archipelagos.
The researchers also concluded that the genetic data showed that the Polynesians and Micronesians were most closely related to Taiwan Aborigines and East Asians. They said this supported the view that these migrating seafarers originated in Taiwan and coastal China at least 3,500 years ago.
The findings were described in the online journal Public Library of Science Genetics (www.plosgenetics.org) by researchers led by Jonathan S. Friedlaender, professor emeritus of biological anthropology at Temple University. He was assisted in the data analysis by his wife, Françoise R. Friedlaender, an independent researcher. Other participants included scientists in the islands and at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wis.
Our analysis, the scientists wrote, indicates the ancestors of Polynesians moved through Melanesia relatively rapidly and only intermixed to a very modest degree with the indigenous populations there.
Dr. Friedlaender of Temple said in an interview that the evidence was substantial and solves a number of issues about the migration and settlement of Pacific people.
In particular, he and other anthropologists not involved in the study said, the genetic research supported the fast train hypothesis.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
You seen this yet?
Newsflash: dateline tommorrow ... China puts forth a claim that Polynesia and Micronesia are upstart provinces that were historically part of China and shall henceforth be known as "Polynesia, province of China" and "Micronesia, province of China." And the KittyHawk is warned to stay the heck away.
Melanesia means Black Islanders.
I believe most of the Polynesians are related to the Lapita people who I believe are/were the Jomon/Ainu people of Japan.
I wonder what group the Taiwan aborigines belong to?
Perhaps the Ainu/beachcombers/Jomon that someone suggested, and not the present-day population of Taiwan?
Perhaps they were lost Mexicans looking for a new route to Texas.
I wonder why the article doesn’t mention the Polynesians of Madagascar?
They were talking about golfers. ;') Thanks Perdogg.
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Better. We're coming off a very slow post-holiday period.
A Lau blonde girl from Malaita, the largest island in the Solomons, which is part of Melanesia.
Newswise The origins and current genetic relationships of Pacific Islanders have generated interest and controversy for many decades. Now, a new comprehensive genetic study of almost 1,000 individuals has revealed that Polynesians and Micronesians have almost no genetic relation to Melanesians, and that groups that live in the islands of Melanesia are remarkably diverse.
The study, The Genetic Structure of Pacific Islanders, is published in the January issue of PLoS Genetics (http://www.plosgenetics.org). It involved researchers from Temple, University of Maryland, Yale, Binghamton University, the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Victoria University in New Zealand, Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taiwan, and the Institute for Medical Research in Papua New Guinea.
The researchers analyzed more than 800 genetic markers (highly informative microsatellites) in nearly 1,000 individuals from 41 Pacific populations, as opposed to prior small-scale mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome studies, which had produced conflicting results.
The first settlers of Australia, New Guinea, and the large islands just to the east arrived between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago, when Neanderthals still roamed Europe, says Jonathan Friedlaender, professor emeritus of anthropology at Temple and the studys lead author. These small groups were isolated and became extremely diverse during the following tens of thousands of years. Then, a little more than 3,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Polynesians and Micronesians, with their excellent sailing outrigger canoes, appeared in the islands of Melanesia, and during the following centuries settled the islands in the vast unknown regions of the central and eastern Pacific.
Over the last 20 years there have been many hypotheses concerning where the ancestors of the Polynesians came from in Asia, how long it took them to develop their special seafaring abilities in Island Melanesia, and how much they interacted with the native Melanesian peoples there before they commenced their remarkable Diaspora across the unexplored islands in the Pacific, he adds.
According to Friedlaender, one scenario called the fast train hypothesis, which is supported by the mitochondrial evidence, suggests that ancestors of the Polynesians originated in Taiwan, moved through Indonesia to Island Melanesia, and then out into the unknown islands of the Pacific without having any significant contact with the Island Melanesians along the way. A counter argument called slow boat hypothesis, which the Y chromosome evidence supports, suggests that the ancestors of the Polynesians were primarily Melanesians, and that there was very little Asian or Taiwanese influence. A third position, called the entangled bank hypothesis, suggests these ancient migrations simply cant be accurately reconstructed by looking at the genetics of todays populations, even in the context of the available archaeological evidence.
In their paper, the researchers state that their analysis is consistent with the scenario that the ancestors of Polynesians moved through Island Melanesia relatively rapidly and only intermixed to a very modest degree with the indigenous populations there.
Our genetic analysis establishes that the Polynesians and Micronesians closest relationships are to Taiwan Aborigines and East Asians, says Friedlaender. Some groups in Island Melanesia who speak languages related to Polynesian, called Austronesian or Oceanic languages, do show a small Polynesian genetic contribution, but it is very minor never more than 20 percent.
There clearly was a lot of cultural and language influence that occurred, but the amount of genetic exchange between the groups along the way was remarkably low, he says. From the genetic perspective, if the ancestral train from the Taiwan vicinity to Polynesia wasnt an express, very few passengers climbed aboard or got off along the way."
Friedlaender adds that this study also confirms and expands their findings from previous studies about the genetic diversity of Island Melanesiansamong the most genetically diverse people on the planet, showing further that their diversity is neatly organized by island, island size, topography and language families.
The study was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the National Geographic Society, The National Institutes of Health, Taiwan National Science Council, and Temple, Binghamton, and Yale Universities.
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