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Tue Oct 23, 2012, 12:55 PM

Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequences of Ancient New Zealanders

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162552.htm


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Traditional maori carving and Taranaki Mount, New Zealand. (Credit: Dmitry Pichugin / Fotolia)

ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2012) In a landmark study, University of Otago researchers have achieved the feat of sequencing complete mitochondrial genomes for members of what was likely to be one of the first groups of Polynesians to settle New Zealand and have revealed a surprising degree of genetic variation among these pioneering voyagers.

The Otago researchers' breakthrough means that similar DNA detective work with samples from various modern and ancient Polynesian populations might now be able to clear up competing theories about the pathways of their great migration across the Pacific to New Zealand.

Results from the team's successful mapping of complete mitochondrial genomes of four of the Rangitane iwi tupuna (ancestors) who were buried at a large village on Marlborough's Wairau Bar more than 700 years ago will be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Study director Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith explains that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is only inherited through the mother's side and can be used to trace maternal lineages and provide insights into ancient origins and migration routes.

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