Evidence for genetic links between Indian and Australian populations ~55,000 years ago

New genetic research reported in the July edition of BMC Evolutionary Biology (1) suggests shared mitochondrial DNA between some ‘relic tribes of India’ and Australian Aboriginal people.

Our complete mtDNA sequencing of 966 individuals frm 26 relic populations of India identified seven individuals from central Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic tribes who share two basal synonymous mtDNA polymorphisms … with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aboriginies.

They suggest that divergence between the two populations occurred at 55,000±10,800 years BP, an estimate based on statistical analysis of mtDNA mutation rates. They argue that this is consistent with current evidence for early occupation of Australia and suggest their data supports Australian colonisation via the southern dispersal route through south Asia ~60-50,000 years BP. Kris Hurst at About.com has a good overview of the southern disperal route though her suggested dates for earliest colonisation of Australia are quite conservative.

ABC Science (2) have published comments from Dr Jeremy Austin at the University of Adelaide who suggests that “…this is the first time people have been able to find these exact same mitochondrial DNA types inside and outside Australia”.

Full abstract and the open source paper can be accessed from the Biomedcentral website. Thanks to Tim Jones who first blogged this at Anthropology.net as well as @jorgenholm on twitter who picked up the ABC story.


(1) Kumar, Satish, Rajasekhara Ravuri, Padmaja Koneru, B Urade, B Sarkar, A Chandrasekar, and V Rao. 2009. Reconstructing Indian-Australian phylogenetic link. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9, no. 1: 173. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-173. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/173.

(2) Phillips, Nicky. 2009. DNA confirms coastal trek to Australia. Item. 24T14:40:00+10:00 7. http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2009/07/24/2635149.htm?topic=ancient.