AUSTRALIA, January 14, 2013 (BBC): Australia experienced a wave of migration from India about 4,000 years ago, a genetic study suggests. It was thought the continent had been largely isolated after the first humans arrived about 40,000 years ago until the Europeans moved in in the 1800s. But DNA from Aboriginal Australians revealed there had been some movement from India during this period.
The researchers believe the Indian migrants may have introduced the dingo to Australia. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they say that the fossil record suggests the wild dogs arrived in Australia at around the same time. They also suggest that Indians may have brought stone tools called microliths to their new home.
To study the early origins of Australia's population, the team compared genetic material from Aboriginal Australians with DNA from people in New Guinea, South East Asia and India. By looking at specific locations, called genetic markers, within the DNA sequences, the researchers were able to track the genes to see who was most closely related to whom. They found an ancient genetic association between New Guineans and Australians, which dates to about 35,000 to 45,000 years ago. At that time, Australia and New Guinea were a single land mass, called Sahul, and this tallies with the period when the first humans arrived.
But the researchers also found a substantial amount of gene flow between India and Australia. Prof. Mark Stoneking, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said: "We have a pretty clear signal from looking at a large number of genetic markers from all across the genome that there was contact between India and Australia somewhere around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago."