Modern Austronesian (AN)-speaking Melanesians are considered to be derived from the admixture of indigenous non-Austronesian (NAN)-speaking people and AN-speaking people from Southeast Asia. In this study, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variations in the D-loop region for two AN-speaking Melanesian populations (Munda and Kusaghe) and an AN-speaking Micronesian population (Rawaki) in the New Georgia Islands, the Western Province of the Solomon Islands to examine their genetic similarities to AN-speaking Polynesians in Tonga and NAN-speaking Melanesians, Gidra, in Papua New Guinea. The ‘Polynesian motif’, which is well-characterized mtDNA marker for Polynesians, was frequently observed in Munda and Kusaghe. Of particular interest, haplogroup E1a2 + 16261, which has been rarely observed in the Solomon Islands, accounted for 12.8% in Kusaghe. It has been reported that the haplogroup E1a2 arose in Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) 9400 ± 2850 years ago. Phylogenetic and principle component analyses for 24 Oceanian populations revealed that Munda and Kusaghe populations were genetically close to Tongan population, but not to Gidra. Rawaki population showed no apparent genetic similarities to populations of Tonga and Gidra. Our results suggest that considerable gene flow from AN-speaking populations originated from Southeast Asia to indigenous Melanesians occurred in the New Georgia Islands.
We are deeply grateful to people of Solomon Islands for their kind cooperation in providing blood samples. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This study was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan.