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Australians may have Indian genes

Dramatic scientific findings show that Indian genes traveled to Australia 4230 years back, well before Europeans arrived there. Charu Sudan Kasturi reports.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2013 01:25 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi

Native Australians are part Indian.

Attacks on Indian students in 2010 in Australia may continue to tint perceptions in this country, but dramatic new research suggests that Indians and Australians have had blood ties for over 140 generations.

Aboriginal Australians have Indian genes dating back 4320 years, well before Europeans arrived in Australia in the late 18th century, the findings suggest, redrawing the region’s genetic map, and pointing to Indian travel to the southern continent much earlier has been thought till now.

“We detect a signal indicative of substantial gene flow between the Indian populations and Australia well before European contact,” the scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liebzig, Germany have written.

Their research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on Tuesday, also suggests that Indians may have taken new tools and technology in food processing with them to Australia.

The Australian continent is believed to have been one of the first geographical areas to which modern man spread about 45,000 years back, after his birth in Africa. Modern Asians are between 23,000 and 38,000 years old.

But anthropologists and geneticists have widely believed, till now, that after this initial colonization, aboriginal Australians remained isolated form the rest of the world before the arrival of the Europeans late in the 18th century.

The researchers, led by geneticist Irina Pugach, assembled genes from aboriginal Australians in the Northern Territories province of that country, highlanders of Papua New Guinea, and populations from South East Asia and India. They then repeatedly studied and dated the mixing in genetic pools between these gene populations to conclude that Indian genes reached Australia 141 generations back.

Theoretically, Indian genes need not have come directly from India, and could have instead come through South East Asia. But the pool of Indian genes used as samples by the researchers has had no evidence of mixing in many thousands of years with South East Asian genes.