Aboriginal Australians’ ancient origins

Aboriginal Australians’ ancient origins

A world-first genomic study involving Griffith University researchers has found Indigenous Australians and Papuans are descendants of a single wave of migrants who left Africa around 70,000 years ago.

Researchers from Griffith University’s Research Centre of Human Evolution (RCHE) along with nine Aboriginal elders collaborated with an international team, including researchers from the University of Copenhagen, led by Professor Eske Willerslev.

Their large-scale project sequenced the complete genomes of 83 Indigenous Australians and 25 Highland Papuans. The elders assisted in discussions with Indigenous groups and helped the team obtain samples, under strict ethical guidelines.

The research determined that all the Pama-Nyungan speaking Aboriginal people studied appeared to have just one founding population, which later expanded across much of the continent. The study found that Indigenous Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasians around 58,000 years ago. The populations of Australia and New Guinea diverged long before the physical separation of the two land masses, and the ancestral Australian population differentiated into sub groups about 31,000 years ago.

Professor David Lambert of Griffith University says that groups living in desert conditions may have developed specific biological means of coping with those highly challenging environments. “The evidence suggests that desert groups are able to withstand sub-zero night temperatures without showing the increase in metabolic rates observed in Europeans under the same conditions,” he says.

See more of the study’s findings here. [Story credit: Griffith University Newsroom]