Genetic structure and heterozygosity in the kuru region, Eastern Highlands of New Guinea

Authors

  • Stephen L. Wiesenfeld,

    1. National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20014
    Current affiliation:
    1. National Jewish Hospital, 3800 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80202
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  • D. Carleton Gajdusek

    1. National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20014
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Abstract

Genetic structure of 20 of the 37 linguistic groups in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea including the kuru region is analyzed using information on blood groups and serum protein polymorphisms. The average individual is heterozygous at 28.6% of loci and the average number of alleles per locus is 1.234. Coefficients of kinship for linguistic groups range from 0.005 for the sweet potato cultivating North Fore to 0.075 for the isolated Pawaians whose dietary staple is sago and who depend more on hunting and gathering. As one selects linguistic groups with smaller and smaller population size and increasing isolation, one finds that kinship coefficients rise as much as tenfold, but there is no concomitant loss of heterozygosity or trend toward fixation of alleles. Genetic relationships established by genetic distance trees and by principal components analysis are comparable and are consistent with other anthropological observations.

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