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DNA Could Assist in Repatriation of Ancient Australian Remains

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Australia DNA ancestorsNATHAN, AUSTRALIA—A new study suggests that ancient human bones from Australia held in museum collections around the world could be linked to living descendants through DNA analysis, according to a Science Magazine report. Geneticists Joanne Wright and David Lambert of Griffith University, at the request of Tapij Wales, an Australian traditional owner, analyzed samples of DNA obtained from 27 aboriginal Australian ancestors whose remains were up to 1,540 years old and had been either repatriated or excavated from indigenous lands. They were able to sequence mitochondrial genomes for all 27 individuals, and nuclear genomes for 10 of them. This information was then compared to DNA derived from saliva samples donated by 100 living aboriginal Australians. Wright and Lambert found that all 10 of the nuclear genomes showed close genetic relationships with the communities now living on the lands where the remains were found. Mitochondrial DNA, however, was less reliable as a way to identify a living community’s ancestors, Lambert added. To read about how genetic evidence was used to study the remains of a teenaged girl found in Mexico, go to “Naia—the 13,000-Year-Old Native American.”

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