July 5, 2005
Genetic Link Confirmed Between Polynesians and Indigenous Taiwanese
According to folklore, Polynesians originated from a mythical homeland called Hawaiki. Their origins and the existence of such a place, however, have been the subject of much speculation. In a new study in the premier open access journal PLoS Biology, Jean Trejaut and colleagues now provide the first direct evidence for the common ancestry of Polynesians and indigenous Taiwanese.
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.
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