Aboriginal Australians were genetically isolated for 50,000 years according to researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, La Trobe University in Melbourne and other Australian institutes. The study, published online in the journal Current Biology on Feb. 25, disproves the research that Aboriginals interbred with Indians 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.

First author Anders Bergstrom explains that the new research involved analysing the Y chromosome, which is only transferred from father to son, from 13 Aboriginal men. The results showed that their Y chromosomes are different from Indians.

“These results refute the previous Y chromosome study, thus excluding this part of the puzzle as providing evidence for a prehistoric migration from India,” Bergstrom says. “Instead, the results are in agreement with the archaeological record about when people arrived in this part of the world.”

Aboriginal Australians

Nambassa Trust and Peter Terry

The researchers note that they do not know how the dingoes arrived in Australia. Other experts also speculated whether the changes of tools and language used around 5,000 years ago were associated with the genetic changes in the Aboriginal population.

The team admits that more research should be conducted to find out how the dingo arrived in Australia and why other ethnic groups like the Polynesians did not come to the continent.  Further genetic studies will also enable scientists to understand the external genetic influences on Aboriginal Australians.

“By fully sequencing and analysing Y-chromosomal DNA, we have been able to trace ancient human migrations and inform living people about their ancestry,” adds Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute group leader, Chris Tyler Smith.

“We are using the latest technology to genetically unearth our ancient history – something that has only become possible in the last decade. We look forward to further collaborations to understand more of this unique heritage.”

“As an Aboriginal Elder and cultural consultant for this project I am delighted, although not surprised, that science has confirmed what our ancestors have taught us over many generations, that we have lived here since the Dreaming,” says Lesley Williams, who coordinated the researchers with the Aboriginal community.