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Synapse Seminar: Unravelling human history with ancient DNA

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McDonald Room (Menzies Library) RG Menzies Building - Australian National University

2 McDonald Pl

Canberra, ACT 2601

Australia

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Ancient DNA (aDNA) provides a unique window into our past, often revealing novel and unexpected results.

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In this talk, Dr Ray Tobler will outline two aDNA projects that have altered our view of human history and evolution. First, he will discuss findings from the Aboriginal Heritage Project, which aims to reconstruct the deep history of Australia using a unique collection of >5000 hair samples and extensive genealogical data, which were collected during anthropological expeditions across Australia between 1920s to 1960s. Initial results agree with Aboriginal oral histories which evoke a deep and abiding connection between Aboriginal Australians and their Country, which the genetic evidence suggests may extend back around 50,000 years. The second project uses DNA from 1000’s of ancient Eurasian human remains to re-examine the role of natural selection in shaping modern European diversity and health. We see abundant evidence for strong selection on genes involved in cold tolerance, immunity, and metabolic function. Remarkably, widespread population mixing in the past few thousand years means that these selective signals are no longer visible in modern European genomes, implying that our current understanding of human adaptation is biased and incomplete.

Dr Ray Tobler is an ARC Discovery Early Career Award Fellow working at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide. Having investigated the genomic basis of selection in experimental populations of fruit flies during his PhD, his current research aims to reconstruct the largely unknown human genetic history Australia, New Guinea, and Wallacea. This research utilises a combination of modern and ancient human DNA, the latter coming from historic hair samples that were collected during anthropological expeditions across the Australian continent that started nearly 100 years ago.

The event will begin at 11:30am for refreshments, and the seminar will begin from 12pm.

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McDonald Room (Menzies Library) RG Menzies Building - Australian National University

2 McDonald Pl

Canberra, ACT 2601

Australia

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