Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Origin of the Australian Aborigines

Where did the native peoples of Australia (the Aborigines) come from? To find out, scientists analyzed the DNA genomic sequence of a lock of hair from an Australian Aborigine that was collected over 100 years ago, in which there is no evidence of contamination or mixture with Europeans’ genes. The results, published Science, show that the Australian Aborigines descended from humans who migrated out of Africa to Eastern Asia around 62,000 – 75,000 years ago, well before a second dispersion from Africa of the current modern Asians (25,000 – 38,000 years ago). In other words, the Aborigines did not diverge from the current population of Asians, but from a group that left Africa much earlier, settled in Australia, and then remained isolated from and unaffected by later migrations. If this is true, then the Australian Aborigines may be the oldest human population to continuously occupy a region outside of Africa.

Reference: Rasmussen, Morton et al. An Aboriginal Australian Genome Reveals Separate Human Dispersals into Asia. Science 334:94-98, Oct. 7, 2011.

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