The population history of indigenous Australians: what can the available genetic data tell us?

Supervisors: David Balding and Ashley Farlow

Available for: MSc/PhD

Location: Melbourne Integrative Genomics, University of Melbourne

Project title: The population history of indigenous Australians: what can the available genetic data tell us?

Description: In the past year or so, three major papers have appeared making strong claims about the population history of indigenous Australians from genetic data: two appeared in Nature. One of them used autosomal DNA, the others relying on only the mitochondrial DNA. The claims from these papers appear to conflict with each other, and many appear to be too precise to be adequately supported from genetic data alone. Much of the data from these papers is available to other researchers, and other data genetic resources are available for indigenous Australians and New Guineans. Broadly speaking, the thinking behind this project is that more careful statistical inferences may be able to resolve some of the differences among these authors, and to distinguish claims that are strongly supported from those that are more speculative. There is a range of publicly available software for demographic inference from genetic data that the student will investigate and critically appraise, and we will examine the support for alternative population histories using simulation-based approximate Bayesian computation, for which generic software is also available but many parameter settings will require careful assessment.

- Malaspinas et al (2016) A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia, Nature 538, 207-14, 13 October 2016, doi:10.1038/nature18299
- Nagle et al (2017) Mitochondrial DNA diversity of present-day Aboriginal Australians and implications for human evolution in Oceania, Journal of Human Genetics 62, 343-353 (March 2017) | doi:10.1038/jhg.2016.147
- Tobler et al (2017) Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia, Nature doi:10.1038/nature21416

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David Balding

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