Two groups may have populated Australia|shearluck||08/29/08 at 19:33:31|shearluck|xx|0||Two groups may have populated Australia

Thursday, 30 November 2006 Anna Salleh
ABC New genetic evidence suggests Australia may have been populated by
two separate groups of humans, one arriving via Papua New Guinea, the
other via Indonesia, a researcher says.

But more work is needed to confirm the idea. And not all scientists
agree that these latest results shed new light on the long-standing
debate on how humans colonised Australia.

Dr Sheila van Holst Pellekaan, a molecular anthropologist from the
University of New South Wales <> in Sydney, will
present her research at a Australian Archaeological Association
<> conference in
Melbourne next month.

Previous genetic analysis shows that modern humans took two migration
routes out of Africa 100,000 to 150,000 years ago, she says.

One group went north into Europe and Northern Eurasia, the other along
the coast via Saudi Arabia, India and Southeast Asia.

Van Holst Pellekaan analysed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Aboriginal
people in western New South Wales and Central Australia.

She says she found evidence of two ancient genetic groups that appear to
be linked to these two migration routes.

Van Holst Pellekaan says some archaeologists argue there was more than
one founding population of Australia and her research is the first
genetic evidence that could be used to support this.

It's possible that some Australians came in from the north via Papua New
Guinea and the other took a more southerly route via Indonesia, she says.

*Different views*

Archaeologist Dr Colin Pardoe, who is speaking at the conference on a
related topic, disagrees.

He believes the diversity of early Australians could have arisen from
one group that came in from Southeast Asia and then diversified as it
adapted to different environments.

Pardoe is not convinced van Holst Pellekaan has identified two founding

"Are these two totally distinct groups that came in or are they
representatives of one major group that came in that has all that
diversity within it?" he asks.

This is a possibility that van Holst Pellekaan accepts.

"The idea of two founding populations is speculative," she says. "I
can't prove it either way."

Pardoe says more DNA samples from other places such as the Indonesian
islands and Papua New Guinea would need to be analysed.

"We need to understand the pattern of variation in these large groupings
to see where Australians are coming from," he says.

Professor Peter Brown of the University of New England
<> in Armidale also says further data is required,
including studies of Y chromosome DNA, as mtDNA only reflects the
maternal line.

Van Holst Pellekaan says some Y-chromosome studies of Aboriginal people
from Central Australia have found a connection with India, but there
have been no comprehensive studies of this type.

*Genetics reflects long Aboriginal history*

Van Holst Pellekaan says despite the links with the global lineages that
came out of Africa, the Australian groups are quite different from those
shown in samples from Papua New Guinea, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
and Malaysia.

"[People] have to have been in Australia for a very long time for that
diversity to generate. We're saying at least 40,000 years," she says.

Van Holst Pellekaan accepts the idea of tracing Aboriginal people back
to Africa can clash with some cultural beliefs, which she respects.

"I simply present it to them as a scientist's way of seeing how the
language groups might have related to each other," she says.

"I can only give them the information I come up with. I don't ask them
to believe it."