Chamorro DNA Sought To Map Human Migration

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National Geographic project seeks samples of male DNA

By Cameron Miculka

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, August 30, 2013) – A worldwide project aimed at mapping the history of human migration and native cultures is coming to Guam.

Miguel Vilar, a researcher with the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Anthropology, will be on island this weekend, collecting DNA samples as part of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project.

Frank Camacho, an assistant professor with the University of Guam biology program, is helping to facilitate Vilar's research by recruiting residents to donate DNA samples.

Human migration

Camacho said the project is in the process of collecting genetic samples from thousands of people across the globe as part of an effort to trace the evolutionary and migration histories of mankind.

One part of the project focuses on indigenous populations around the world.

That's where Vilar's focus on Guam comes in, he said.

"He's coming out to focus on people of Chamorro descent," Camacho said. "But he's open to sample people of other ethnicities as well."

"He really wants to get a robust sample of Chamorro males," he added.

Camacho said the project will help "put Chamorros and other indigenous peoples within the context of broader human history and colonization."

The focus on Guam, Camacho said, comes from the fact that those whose ancestry includes Guam have a "unique genetic signature," meaning that the analysis of samples from here have unique variations that don't appear in any other populations, not even those from other parts of Micronesia.

Y chromosome

Camacho said Vilar's focus on getting male samples is part of an effort to better trace the history of the Y chromosome, which is only carried in male DNA.

Generally, he said, researchers focus on mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down from the mother.

By focusing on the Y chromosome, he said, researchers can focus on male ancestry, or the patrilineage.

In a paper Vilar published in 2012, he said continued research on the Y chromosome would likely reveal gene flow from Spain, Mexico and the Philippines, "which could have resulted from the imposed male-dominated colonization, the role of the Marianas as a stopping point in trans-Pacific trade, and the forced immigration of Filipino workers during colonial times."

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