The first large-scale genetic study of people in Papua New Guinea has shown that different groups within the country are genetically highly different from each other. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their colleagues at the University of Oxford and the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research reveal that the people there have remained genetically independent from Europe and Asia for most of the last 50,000 years, and that people from the country’s isolated highlands region have been completely independent even until the present day.
With approximately 850 domestic languages, which account for over 10 per cent of the world’s total, Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world. To discover if the linguistic and cultural diversity was echoed in the genetic structure of the population, researchers studied the genomes of 381 Papuan New Guinean people from 85 different language groups within the country.
Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, corresponding author on the paper from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “Using genetics, we were able to see that people on the island of New Guinea evolved independently from rest of the world for much of the last 50,000 years. This study allows us to glimpse a different version of human evolution from that in Europe and Asia, one in which there was agriculture but no later Bronze Age or Iron Age. Papua New Guinea might show the genetic, cultural and linguistic diversity that many settled human societies would have had before these technological transformations.”
Paper. (paywall) – Anders Bergström, Stephen J. Oppenheimer, Alexander J. Mentzer, Kathryn Auckland, Kathryn Robson, Robert Attenborough, Michael P. Alpers, George Koki, William Pomat, Peter Siba, Yali Xue, Manjinder S. Sandhu, Chris Tyler-Smith. A Neolithic expansion, but strong genetic structure, in the independent history of New Guinea. Science, 2017; 357 (6356): 1160 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan3842 More.
So if we see no significant differences that affect normal human functioning between Papua-New Guineans and other human populations after 50,000 years, does that help us rough out a timetable for human evolution in general? Specifically, for the probability of various human-chimp divergence claims?
How much change, how fast? Is a claim relying on current theory probable or plausible according to the numbers?
But then current human evolution claims have a special exemption from probability, or even plausibility, right? Maybe we’ll hear next that numbers are anti-science anyway.
See also: Fossil human footprints challenge established theories: Non-ape feet