The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Reconstructing human colonization of Polynesia using molecular data


1Department of Anatomy, Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Evolution and Evolution, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, 2Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA, 3School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom, 4Samoan Studies Institute, American Samoa Community College, American Samoa

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Oceania is an outstanding region to study human prehistory and evolution. Colonization of Oceania comprises the earliest movement of modern humans out of Africa with the subsequent settlement of Australia and Papua New Guinea about 50.000 years and the latest movement of people into Polynesia about 3.000 years ago.

However, many aspects of the colonization of Polynesia by humans, such as the sequence of settlement or the influence of Lapita or Micronesian cultures still remain unknown. Molecular data can shed light on some of this questions.

The study of human demographic history is currently on an inflection into a new era. New sequencing technologies, improved techniques to retrieve DNA from subfossil remains and new data analysis approaches (such as model-based analysis) will revolutionize our understanding of this complex human achievement.

Here we present results of National Geographic’s Genographic project and other research projects in Oceania. In this studies we sampled DNA and genealogical information from several hundred individuals throughout Oceania. We sequenced complete mtDNA genomes and identified Y chromosome haplotypes to study population structure and population histories through-out Polynesia. Using classical as well as model-based analyses we reconstruct population histories and quantify support for or against different scenarios.

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