Ancient chicken DNA reveals Philippines home to Polynesians
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2014 - 12:29pm

CANBERRA, Australia -- A research on ancient chicken DNA shows that the Philippines could be the ancestral homeland of the Polynesians, whose forebears colonized the Pacific about 3,200 years ago, the University of Adelaide said on Tuesday.

An international team of researchers led by Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA (ACAD), at the University of Adelaide used the ancient DNA to study the origins and dispersal of ancestral Polynesian chickens, reconstructing the early migrations of people and the animals they carried with them.

They found that Polynesian chickens had their roots in the Philippines, making that region a candidate for the homeland of the mysterious Lapita people thought to be ancestral to Polynesians who transported the domesticated birds to the Pacific islands.

"We have identified genetic signatures of the original Polynesian chickens, and used these to track early movements and trading patterns across the Pacific," said lead author Dr. Vicki Thomson of ACAD. "We were also able to trace the origins of these lineages back into the Philippines, providing clues about the source of the original Polynesian chicken populations."

But Professor Cooper stressed that the Philippines could merely have been a stopover point for the ancient mariners.

"We're doing further sampling work on modern chickens throughout Southeast Asia to see where the genetic trail leads," he said. Scholars have long been trying to pinpoint the Southeast Asian ancestral homeland of the Polynesians, with many putting it in China's Taiwan.

The question remains unanswered despite years of research on modern human DNA and ancient and modern chicken, pig and rat DNA.

Professor Cooper's team found a unique Pacific genetic signature in all of the ancient chicken bone samples, which were hundreds of years old.

"We don't find this signature anywhere else in the world except in the Philippines and neighboring areas," he said.

The study are published Tuesday on the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. - Xinhua

ALAN COOPER ANCIENT AUSTRALIAN CENTER BUT PROFESSOR COOPER DR. VICKI THOMSON PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES PROFESSOR COOPER SOUTHEAST ASIA SOUTHEAST ASIAN UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE
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