In the present study, 87 unrelated individuals from the Marquesas Archipelago in French Polynesia were typed using mtDNA, Y-chromosome and autosomal (STRs) markers and compared to key target populations from Island South East Asia (ISEA), Taiwan, and West and East Polynesia to investigate their genetic relationships. The Marquesas, located at the eastern-most fringes of the Austronesian expansion, offer a unique opportunity to examine the effects of a protracted population expansion wave on population structure. We explore the contribution of Melanesian, Asian and European heritage to the Marquesan islands of Nuku-Hiva, Hiva-Oa and Tahuata. Overall, the Marquesas Islands are genetically homogeneous. In the Marquesan Archipelago all of the mtDNA haplogroups are of Austronesian origin belonging to the B4a1 subhaplogroup as the region marks the end of a west to east decreasing cline of Melanesian mtDNA starting with the West Polynesian population of Tonga. Genetic discrepancies are less pronounced between the Marquesan and Society islands, and among the Marquesan islands. Interestingly, a number of Melanesian, Polynesian and European Y-chromosome haplogroups exhibit very different distribution between the Marquesan islands of Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa, likely resulting from drift, differential migration involving various source populations and/or unique trading routes.
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