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Mol Biol Evol. 2007 Nov;24(11):2546-55. Epub 2007 Sep 10.

Patterns of Y-chromosome diversity intersect with the Trans-New Guinea hypothesis.

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  • 1Department of Genetics and Microbiology, University of Bari, Bari, Italy.


The island of New Guinea received part of the first human expansion out of Africa (>40,000 years ago), but its human genetic history remains poorly understood. In this study, we examined Y-chromosome diversity in 162 samples from the Bird's Head region of northwest New Guinea (NWNG) and compared the results with previously obtained data from other parts of the island. NWNG harbors a high level of cultural and linguistic diversity and is inhabited by non-Austronesian (i.e., Papuan)-speaking groups as well as harboring most of West New Guinea's (WNG) Austronesian-speaking groups. However, 97.5% of its Y-chromosomes belong to 5 haplogroups that originated in Melanesia; hence, the Y-chromosome diversity of NWNG (and, according to available data, of New Guinea as a whole) essentially reflects a local history. The remaining 2.5% belong to 2 haplogroups (O-M119 and O-M122) of East Asian origin, which were brought to New Guinea by Austronesian-speaking migrants around 3,500 years ago. Thus, the Austronesian expansion had only a small impact on shaping Y-chromosome diversity in NWNG, although the linguistic impact of this expansion to this region was much higher. In contrast, the expansion of Trans-New Guinea (TNG) speakers (non-Austronesian) starting about 6,000-10,000 years ago from the central highlands of what is now Papua New Guinea, presumably in combination with the expansion of agriculture, played a more important role in determining the Y-chromosome diversity of New Guinea. In particular, we identified 2 haplogroups (M-P34 and K-M254) as suggestive markers for the TNG expansion, whereas 2 other haplogroups (C-M38 and K-M9) most likely reflect the earlier local Y-chromosome diversity. We propose that sex-biased differences in the social structure and cultural heritage of the people involved in the Austronesian and the TNG expansions played an important role (among other factors) in shaping the New Guinean Y-chromosome landscape.

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