New Study Reveals Remarkable Genetic Diversity among Papuan New Guinean Peoples | Anthropology, Genetics

An international team of researchers led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has analyzed genome-wide data of 381 individuals from 85 language groups in Papua New Guinea and found that different groups within the country are genetically highly different from each other. The research is published in the journal Science.

Papua New Guinea was likely a stepping stone for human migration from Asia to Australia. Bergstroem et al performed genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism genotyping on 381 individuals from 85 language groups in Papua New Guinea and found a sharp divide originating 10,000 to 20,000 years ago between lowland and highland groups and a lack of non-New Guinean admixture in the latter. This photo shows drummers and dancers from each village on the beach of Port Moresby, the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea. Image credit: Steve Jurvetson / CC BY 2.0.

The island of New Guinea contains some of the earliest archaeological evidence for modern humans outside of Africa, dating back to 50,000 years ago.

About 10,000 years ago, systematic plant cultivation was developed in its central mountain range, coinciding with similar, independent developments in the Near East, East Asia, and the Americas.

Today, the country of Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island and northern Island Melanesia and is the most linguistically diverse country in the world, with approximately 850 domestic languages spoken (account for over 10% of the world’s total).

To discover if the linguistic and cultural diversity was echoed in the genetic structure of the population, Sanger Institute researcher Anders Bergström and co-authors studied the genomes of 381 Papuan New Guinean people from 85 different language groups within the country.

The scientists looked at more than a million genetic positions in the genome of each individual, and compared them to investigate genetic similarities and differences.

They found that groups of people speaking…

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