Genetic Chaos

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Gene Flow from the Indian Subcontinent to Australia: Evidence from the Y Chromosome

Phenotypic similarities between Australian Aboriginal People and some tribes of India were noted by T.H. Huxley during the voyage of the Rattlesnake (1846–1850). Anthropometric studies by Birdsell led to his suggestion that a migratory wave into Australia included populations with affinities to tribal Indians. Genetic evidence for an Indian contribution to the Australian gene pool is contradictory; most studies of autosomal markers have not supported this hypothesis. On the other hand, affinities between Australian Aboriginal People and southern Indians were suggested based on maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. Here, we show additional DNA evidence in support of Huxley's hypothesis of an Indian-Australian connection using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and short tandem repeats (STRs) on the nonrecombining portion of the Y chromosome (NRY). Phylogenetic analyses of STR variation associated with a major Australian SNP lineage indicated tight clustering with southern Indian/Sri Lankan Y chromosomes. Estimates of the divergence time for these Indian and Australian chromosomes overlap with important changes in the archaeological and linguistic records in Australia. These results provide strong evidence for an influx of Y chromosomes from the Indian subcontinent to Australia that may have occurred during the Holocene.

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