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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2010 Jun;142(2):211-23. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21212.

A genetic analysis of the Sakishima islanders reveals no relationship with Taiwan aborigines but shared ancestry with Ainu and main-island Japanese.

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Department of Integrated Biosciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8562, Japan.


The Sakishima islands are members of the Ryukyu island chain, stretching from the southwestern tip of the Japanese archipelago to Taiwan in the East China Sea. Archaeological data indicate cultural similarities between inhabitants of prehistoric Sakishima and Neolithic Taiwan. Recent studies based on tooth crown traits show remarkably high inter-island diversity among Ryukyu islanders, suggesting that the Sakishima islanders might have genetic backgrounds distinct from main-island Okinawa people. To investigate the genetic diversity of the Ryukyu islanders, we analyzed mtDNA, Y chromosome, and autosomal short tandem repeat loci in a sample of main-island Okinawa people and Sakishima (Miyako and Ishigaki) islanders whose participated in a previous study of tooth crown morphology. Our phylogenetic analysis of maternal (mtDNA) and paternal (Y chromosome) lineages shows that the Sakishima islanders are more closely related to people from the Japanese archipelago than to Taiwan aborigines. Miyako islanders and the Hokkaido Ainu have the first and second highest frequencies (respectively) of the Y-chromosomal Alu-insertion polymorphism, which is a presumable Jomon marker. Genetic diversity statistics show no evidence of demographic reduction or of extreme isolation in each island's population. Thus, we conclude that 1) Neolithic expansion from Taiwan did not contribute to the gene pool of modern Sakishima islanders, 2) male-lineage of the Ryukyu islanders likely shares a common ancestor with the Hokkaido Ainu who are presumably direct descendants of the Jomon people, and 3) frequent reciprocal gene flow among islands has masked the trace of common ancestry in the Ryukyu island chain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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