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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May 22;104(21):8726-30. Epub 2007 May 11.

Revealing the prehistoric settlement of Australia by Y chromosome and mtDNA analysis.

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  • 1Estonian Biocentre and Tartu University, Department of Evolutionary Biology, Riia 23, 51010 Tartu, Estonia.

Abstract

Published and new samples of Aboriginal Australians and Melanesians were analyzed for mtDNA (n=172) and Y variation (n=522), and the resulting profiles were compared with the branches known so far within the global mtDNA and the Y chromosome tree. (i) All Australian lineages are confirmed to fall within the mitochondrial founder branches M and N and the Y chromosomal founders C and F, which are associated with the exodus of modern humans from Africa approximately 50-70,000 years ago. The analysis reveals no evidence for any archaic maternal or paternal lineages in Australians, despite some suggestively robust features in the Australian fossil record, thus weakening the argument for continuity with any earlier Homo erectus populations in Southeast Asia. (ii) The tree of complete mtDNA sequences shows that Aboriginal Australians are most closely related to the autochthonous populations of New Guinea/Melanesia, indicating that prehistoric Australia and New Guinea were occupied initially by one and the same Palaeolithic colonization event approximately 50,000 years ago, in agreement with current archaeological evidence. (iii) The deep mtDNA and Y chromosomal branching patterns between Australia and most other populations around the Indian Ocean point to a considerable isolation after the initial arrival. (iv) We detect only minor secondary gene flow into Australia, and this could have taken place before the land bridge between Australia and New Guinea was submerged approximately 8,000 years ago, thus calling into question that certain significant developments in later Australian prehistory (the emergence of a backed-blade lithic industry, and the linguistic dichotomy) were externally motivated.

PMID:
17496137
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1885570
Free PMC Article

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