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Am J Hum Genet. May 1996; 58(5): 1017–1024.
PMCID: PMC1914625

An ancient common origin of aboriginal Australians and New Guinea highlanders is supported by alpha-globin haplotype analysis.


The origins of aboriginal Australians and their relationship with New Guineans and neighboring Southeast Asians remains controversial. We have studied the alpha-globin haplotype composition of an aboriginal tribe from central Australia, to address some of the ambiguities of previous studies. Australians have a haplotype repertoire that is shared with New Guinea highlanders, a fact that strongly supports a common origin of these two populations. Further, Australians and New Guinea highlanders have a different set of alpha haplotypes from Southeast Asians and a lower genetic diversity. This, coupled with the presence of many locally specific central Australian haplotypes, suggests that much of the original diversity was lost in a population bottleneck prior to or during the early colonization of Sahul and that subsequent recovery of diversity has been accompanied by the generation of new haplotypes. These conclusions contrast with some previous genetic studies suggesting links between Australians, coastal New Guineans, and present-day Southeast Asians. Much of this discrepancy appears to be due to more recent Southeast Asian admixture on the north coast of Australia.

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