Polynesians came from Taiwan says new study
July 13, 2005
Polynesians, history’s greatest seafarers who settled islands across a vast area of ocean from Madagascar to Easter Island, originated in Taiwan, according to a new genetic study published in the journal Public Library of Science Biology.
The study looked at mitochondrial DNA, which is passed along virtually unchanged from mothers to their children, to determine that clear similarities exist between nine indigenous Taiwan groups and ethnic Polynesians. Most Taiwanese today are decended from mainland Chinese who have arrived in the past four centuries. Jean Trejaut and Marie Lin of Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei lead the study and found that Taiwanese aboriginal populations have likely been genetically isolated from mainland Chinese for between 10,000 and 20,000 years.
Press Release announcing the findings:
Genetic techniques involving mitochondrial DNA ( mtDNA ) have been used to try and determine whether there is a link between Polynesians and other Southeast Asian populations by estimating how much mtDNA different populations have in common. Early results were conflicting or inconclusive; however, the research by Trejaut et al. has finally nailed this down. Trejaut et al. analyzed mtDNA from people in China, Southeast Asia, Polynesia, and Taiwan. The authors focused specifically on the aboriginal populations of Taiwan, suggested to be ancestors of today’s Polynesians, and looked for unique genetic markers that occurred in the aboriginal people. They then compared these markers to those found in mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, and other Southeast Asian peoples.
Trejaut et al. found that the indigenous Taiwanese, Melanesian, and Polynesian populations share three specific mutations in their mtDNA that do not occur in mainland east Asian populations. Furthermore, they showed that there are enough different mtDNA mutations between the mainland Chinese population and the aboriginal Taiwanese to support archeological findings suggesting a long period of habitation. These results indicate that Taiwanese aboriginal populations have been genetically isolated from mainland Chinese for 10,000 to 20,000 years, and that Polynesian migration probably originated from people identical to the aboriginal Taiwanese. Further research will be necessary to precisely determine the origins of the aboriginal Taiwanese; however, these results are a step towards clarifying the origins of Polynesians.
Citation: Trejaut JA, Kivisild T, Loo JH, Lee CL, He CL, et al. ( 2005 ) Traces of archaic mitochondrial lineages persist in Austronesian-speaking Formosan populations. PLoS Biol 3( 8 ): e247.
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Contact: Paul Ocampo
Public Library of Science
This article used information from Public Library of Science and Reuters.