[ASC-list] Genographic 'snapshot' provides insights into Melbourne's genetic melting pot

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Fri Dec 4 02:20:51 UTC 2009

Dear ASCers,

Results from Journey of Your Genes Public Swabbing Event Revealed


MELBOURNE (3 Dec, 2009), The Governor of Victoria, His Excellency Prof. David de Kretser, AC, shares the same Y chromosome 'haplogroup' with World Vision's  Tim Costello with both men's Genographic Project DNA test showing they are R1b - migrating out of Africa around 45,000 years ago and eventually living in Europe (70% of men from southern England belong to this group).   


Their 'deep ancestry' Genographic Project results form part of an interesting 'snapshot' looking at Melbourne's diversity when over 100 members of the public as well as local identities swabbed their cheek on 4 October, 2009 as part of the 'Journey of Your Genes.....The Genographic Project Traces Your Family Roots' at Melbourne University.


According to Dr. Spencer Wells, the project director of the Genographic Project, who is visiting Melbourne this week to deliver a free public lecture on the results (Melbourne University's Spot Theatre, 198 Berkeley Street, Parkville, on Sunday 6 Dec at 10am-12noon), the snapshot is consistent with Melbourne's original European settlement but by no means represents the overall diversity of one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities.


"Most of the males tested in early October were from Western European backgrounds represented by Haplogroup R1b while the women also shared a similar European migratory path with Haplogroup H."


"However, we did see a few other haplogroups, including 'N' and 'Q', which are typical of native Siberians, as well as native North and South Americans, and O3, which indicates East Asian ancestry," Spencer Wells said.


The Genographic Project is a landmark global research initiative by National Geographic and IBM, which is studying the history of humankind's ancient migratory journey starting in Africa 60,000 years ago, using DNA as a study tool.  Initial research commenced in 2005.  

To date, more than 320,000 people around the world have purchased a Genographic Public Participation Kit for US$100 and taken the test with many opting to have their results included in the overall project database (www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic).


IBM's Computational Biology team has been helping to determine patterns in the mountain of genetic data that's been collected and devising new methods of data analysis to shed new light on our collective past.


"Not only are we finding patterns of ancestry in this data that are surprising but the IBM Research team is developing entirely new methods of DNA analysis that could open the doors to insights that simply weren't knowable before," Dr. Tim Littlejohn a geneticist from IBM Australia said.


The Melbourne snapshot project was overseen by Prof. Philip Batterham, Chairman of Evolution the Festival and a geneticist at the Center for Environmental Stress and Adaptation Research at Melbourne University.                                                                                   (more)

 "I think those that arrived early at the front of the queue for the free swabbing had more in common than just wanting to discover their deep ancestry - they also shared common ancestors," he said.


The results were analysed by Dr. Wells after being tested at the Genographic Project's laboratories. He concluded that 64% of the men tested  share an ancestor with U2's Bono (who undertook the test in 2008) and 10% of women share an ancestor with Ötzi the Ice Man  as well as US comedian and television host, Stephen Colbert (who was tested on his show in 2007).  


The results also revealed that: 

- 100% of those tested have ancestors from East Africa

- 24% of women were among the world's first farmers in the Fertile Crescent around 10,000 years ago 

- More than three-quarters of men have ancestors who would have encountered a Neanderthal in Western Europe around 30,000 years ago. 

- No men who took the test were descended from Genghis Kahn whose DNA can be found in 8% of the population in Central and Eastern Asia.


Olympic gold medallist, hockey player Claire Mitchell-Taverner discovered that she is a member of mitochondrial haplogroup T2 - a group which has wide distribution across northeastern Europe and is present as far east as the Indus Valley bordering India and Pakistan and as far south as the Arabian Peninsula.  


"It's so interesting to take the test and understand my deep ancestry on my mother's side.  It doesn't surprise me but opens the possibility to find out more about my maternal heritage. It makes you realise that we're all connected," she said. 


Professor Philip Batterham, Chairman of Evolution, the Festival, the year of science events celebrating the Darwin anniversaries said that the event demonstrated the huge interest among the population in knowing their 'deep ancestry'.  


"We had more than 1,000 members of the public queue to take part in the Genographic Project on 4 October.  We know that tracing your family tree is popular and has become easier with access to the internet, but finding out your heritage dating back tens of thousands of years using DNA as the tool is something we couldn't have imagined even 20 years ago," Professor Batterham said.

Participants in the cheek swabbing have been invited back to hear Spencer Wells explain their results at a free lecture on Sunday 6 December at 10am - 12noon at the Spot Theatre at Melbourne University.  The event is also open to the public.

Bookings can be made online at www.humanjourneys.com.au <http://www.humanjourneys.com.au/>  




For further information contact:

Kim McKay - Genographic Project (Momentum2) 02 9331 3577;  0418 440 626

Niall Byrne - Evolution the Festival (03) 9398 1416; 0417 131 977 niall at scienceinpublic.com.au

Prof. Phil Batterham - Evolution the Festival, Melbourne University

03 8344 2363  0418 598 562   p.batterham at unimelb.edu.au 





Niall Byrne

Science in Public


ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977

niall at scienceinpublic.com.au <mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au> 

Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com <http://www.scienceinpublic.com> 


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