Austronesian genetic signature in East African Madagascar and Polynesia
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The dispersal of the Austronesian language family from Southeast Asia represents the last major diaspora leading to the peopling of Oceania to the East and the Indian Ocean to the West. Several theories have been proposed to explain the current locations, and the linguistic and cultural diversity of Austronesian populations. However, the existing data do not support unequivocally any given migrational scenario. In the current study, the genetic profile of 15 autosomal STR loci is reported for the first time for two populations from opposite poles of the Austronesian range, Madagascar at the West and Tonga to the East. These collections are also compared to geographically targeted reference populations of Austronesian descent in order to investigate their current relationships and potential source population(s) within Southeast Asia. Our results indicate that while Madagascar derives 66.3% of its genetic makeup from Africa, a clear connection between the East African island and Southeast Asia can be discerned. The data suggest that although geographic location has influenced the phylogenetic relationships between Austronesian populations, a genetic connection that binds them beyond geographical divides is apparent.