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European and Polynesian admixture in the Norfolk Island population

Abstract

The Norfolk Island population in the South Pacific is primarily the product of recent admixture between a small number of British male and Polynesian female founders. We identified and genotyped 128 Ancestry Informative Markers (AIMs) spread across the autosomes, X/Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA genome, to explore and quantify the current levels of genetic admixture in the Norfolk Islanders. On the basis of autosomal AIMs, the population shows mean European and Polynesian ancestry proportions of 88 and 12%, respectively. However, there is a substantial variation between individuals ranging from total European ancestry to near total Polynesian origin. There is a strong correlation between individual genetic estimates of Polynesian ancestry and those derived from the extensive pedigree and genealogical records of Islanders. Also in line with historical accounts, there is a substantial asymmetry in the maternal and paternal origins of the Islanders with almost all Y-chromosomes of European origin whereas at least 25% of mtDNAs appear to have a Polynesian origin. Accurate knowledge of ancestry will be important in future attempts to use the Island population in admixture mapping approaches to find the genes that underlie differences in the risk to some diseases between Europeans and Polynesians.

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