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Study Links Brazilians to Polynesians

New research shows that some early settlers of the Americas may have come from the Pacific islands archipelago.

Apr 3, 2013
Edyta Zielinska

A Wooden carving from the volcanic islands of MangarevaWIKIMEDIA, CLIFFMost researchers think that early humans populated the Americas by crossing the Bering land bridge that then connected Alaska and Asia. However, a new study published this week (April 1) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found a link between one group of these early settlers, the Botocudo people of southeastern Brazil, and the Polynesians of the southern Pacific.

Researchers studies short stretches of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from museum tooth samples of ancient Botocudo individuals, extracting a piece of the tooth cores so as not to pick up DNA contamination from people who have touched the teeth. A few of the samples contained mtDNA that resembled those of modernPolynesian populations. Although the researchers are fairly confident that their results are accurate, explaining it is more difficult.

One hypothesis suggests that Polynesians could have traveled to the western coast of South America, then made their way east to southern Brazil. However, the group would have had to cross the Andes, which most groups living on the west coast were not believed to have done. Another theory suggests that slave traders could have brought Polynesians to Brazil where they could have interbred with the Botocudo.

(Hat tip to Nature)

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