Genetic characterization of Gainj- and Kalam-Speaking peoples of Papua New Guinea

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Abstract

The research presented focuses on genetic variation in the Gainj- and Kalam-speaking peoples of highland Papua New Guinea. The primary data are typings at 51 genetic loci observed on 600 individuals who reside in 21 census units, called parishes. These data are augmented by cultural and demographic information that has also been collected.

Parish sizes are small, ranging from 20 to about 200 individuals. Direct Western contact with these people has been occuring only for the past three decades. Although Westernization is currently increasing, we find that much of the traditional settlement pattern and mate exchange system is preserved. There are segregating variants at 27 loci. Four rare variants are initially described: NP 4-Kalam, ADA 6-Kalam, PEPA 3-Kalam, and FUM 2-Kalam. We find evidence for a new Gm haplotype, a; —, that is recessive to all other Gm haplotypes. It occurs at a high enough frequency, f(a;—) = 0.119, to be considered a “private polymorphism.” Average per locus heterozygosity is estimated to be 0.053. This value is not statistically different from levels observed on two modern urban populations. Thus, there is no evidence for a reduced level of genetic variation in these people, despite small parish sizes and a relatively unacculturated social structure.

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