SysGen Seminar – Ray Tobler – 3rd March, 2017


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Andrew Siebel

T: +61 3 8344 0707

Ray Tobler

Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide

Friday 3rd March
FW Jones Theatre, 3rd Floor, Medical Building, The University of Melbourne

Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia

Aboriginal Australians represent one of the longest continuous cultural complexes known. Archaeological evidence indicates that Australia/New Guinea was initially settled ~50 thousand years ago (kya); however, little is known about the processes underlying the enormous linguistic and phenotypic diversity within Australia. Here we report 111 mitogenomes from historic Aboriginal Australian hair samples, whose provenance enables the reconstruction of Australian phylogeographic history prior to European settlement. Marked geographic patterns and deep splits across the major mitochondrial haplogroups imply that the peopling of Australia comprised a single, rapid migration along the east and west coasts that reached southern Australia by >49-45 kya. Following continent-wide colonisation, strong regional patterns developed and have survived despite significant climatic and cultural change during the late Pleistocene and Holocene. Remarkably, we find evidence for the continuous presence of populations in discrete locales back to ~50 kya, consonant with the critical Aboriginal Australian cultural attachment to Country.

Dr Ray Tobler is an ARC Indigenous Fellow currently working at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide. He completed his PhD at the Institute of Population Genetics in Vienna, Austria in late 2015. For his PhD research, Dr Tobler used natural and experimental populations of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to reveal how sexually reproducing species are able to adapt to changing environments. Dr Tobler returned to Australia at the start of 2016 to work with Prof Alan Cooper on the Aboriginal Heritage Project. This landmark project aims to reconstruct largely unknown genetic history of Aboriginal Australia by utilising extensive genealogical records and ancient DNA from hair, which were collected during anthropological expeditions across the Australian continent that started nearly 100 years ago. By creating a genetic map of Australia that predates European colonial history, the project also provides Dr Tobler and his family with the opportunity to learn more about their own Aboriginal Australian heritage.

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