Genetic Diversity in Oceania

In these studies, we investigated the genetic diversity of the descendants of the first human populations to settle Australia, the area that became Australia, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia. Humans first reached Australia some 50,000 years ago, and Papua New Guinea not long after that. By around 35,000 years before present, populations had reached the Solomon Islands and island Melanesia. Their ancient occupation of these regions and relative isolation from other groups for thousands of years led to the development of extraordinary biological diversity. In addition to reconstructing the migration history of these populations, we examined mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation in them to better understand how patterns of genetic variation relate to those of linguistic and cultural variation in these regions.

Aboriginal Australians

The Wandjina spirit beings come from the Kimberley. In particular Kulumburu
Image Source:


Image source: via Getty Image.

Chamorros (Guam)

Illustration from Voyage autour du monde, entrepris par ordre du roi. Exécuté sur les corvettes de S.M. l’Uranie et la Physicienne, pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820, Paris, 1824, by Marie Joseph Alphonese Pellion.


Huoponen K, Schurr TG, Chen Y-S, Wallace DC. 2001. Mitochondrial DNA variation in an aboriginal Australian population: Evidence for genetic isolation and regional differentiation. Hum Immunol 62(9): 954-969.  Link

Friedlaender J, Schurr T, Gentz F, Koki G, Friedlaender F, Horvat G, Babb P, Cerchio S, Kaestle F, Schanfield M, Deka R, Yanagihara R, Merriwether DA. 2005. Expanding Southwest Pacific mtDNA haplogroups P and Q. Mol Biol Evol 22(6): 1506-1517.  Link

Friedlaender J, Gentz F, Friedlaender F, Kaestle F, Schurr T, Koki G, Schanfield M, McDonough J, Smith L, Cerchio S, Mgone C, Merriwether DA. 2006. Mitochondrial genetic diversity and its determinants in island Melanesia. In: Pawley A, Attenborough R, Golson J, Hide R, editors. Papuan Pasts: Cultural, Linguistic and Biological Histories of Papuan-speaking People. Canberra: Australian National University Press, pp. 693-717.

Friedlaender J, Friedlaender F, Hodgson J, McGrath S, Stoltz M, Koki G, Schurr TG, Merriwether DA. 2007. Mitochondrial DNA variation in northern Island Melanesia. In: Friedlaender J, editor. Genes, Language, and Culture History in the Southwest Pacific. Oxford University Press, pp. 61-80.

McAllister P, Nagle N, Mitchell RJ, The Genographic Consortium. 2013. The Australian Barrineans: Southern Negritos or rainforest-adapted aborigines? Hum Biol 85(1-3): 485-494.  Link

Nagle N, Ballantyne KN, van Oven M, Tyler-Smith C, Xue Y, Taylor D, Wilcox S, Wilcox L, Turkalov R, van Oorschot RAH, McAllister P, Williams L, Kayser M, Mitchell RJ, Genographic Consortium. 2015. Antiquity and diversity of Aboriginal Australian Y-chromosomes. Am J Phys Anthropol 159(3): 367-381.  Link

Nagle N, Ballantyne KN, van Oven M, Tyler-Smith C, Xue Y, Wilcox S, Wilcox L, Turkalov R, van Oorschot RAH, van Holst Pellekaan S, Schurr TG, McAllister P, Williams L, Kayser M, Mitchell RJ, The Genographic Consortium. 2016. Mitochondrial DNA diversity of present-day Aboriginal Australians and its implications for human evolution in Oceania. J Hum Genet 62(3): 343-353.  Link

Nagle N, van Oven M, Wilcox S, van Holst Pellekaan S, Tyler-Smith C, Xue Y, Ballantyne KN, Wilcox L, Papac L, Cooke K, van Oorschot RAH, McAllister P, Williams L, Kayser M, Mitchell RJ, The Genographic Consortium. 2017. Australian Aboriginal mitochondrial genome variation – An increased understanding of population antiquity and diversity. Scientific Reports 7:43041.  Link

Liu Y-C, Hunter-Anderson R, Cheronet O, Eakin J, Camacho F, Pietrusewsky M, Rohland N, Ioannidis A, Athens JS, Douglas MT, Ikehara-Quebral RM, Bernardos R, Culleton BJ, Mah M, Adamski N, Broomandskhoshbacht N, Callan K, Lawson AM, Mandl K, Michel M, Oppenheimer J, Stewardson K, Zalzala F, Kidd K, Kidd J, Schurr TG, Auckland K, Hill AVS, Mentzer AJ, Quinto-Cortés CD, Robson K, Kennett DJ, Patterson N, Bustamante CD, Moreno-Estrada A, Spriggs M, Vilar M, Lipson M, Pinhasi R, Reich D. 2022. Ancient DNA evidence reveals five streams of migrations into Micronesia and matrilocality in early Pacific seafarers. Science 377(6601): 27-29.  Link

Laboratory of Molecular Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
421 University Museum
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6398, USA
Tel: 215-573-2656