Wed, Nov 21, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Most Hoklo, Hakka have Aboriginal genes, study finds

By Hu Ching-hui  /  STAFF REPORTER

Eighty-five percent of Hoklo and Hakka people have Aboriginal ancestry, according to a study on the DNA of non-Aboriginal ethnic Taiwanese conducted by Mackay Memorial Hospital's transfusion medical research director Mari Lin (林媽利).

Those 85 percent have strains from both plains and mountain Aboriginal tribes, as well as from Fujian and Guangdong and minor traces of ancestry from the Philippines, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian islands, the study found.

Only 1.5 percent of Taiwan's population have full Aboriginal ancestry, the study found.

As an example of the nation's ethnic diversity, Lin cited the example of Taiwan independence activist Peng Ming-min (彭明敏), whose patrilineal DNA is part Aboriginal, while his matrilineal DNA has Hakka and North Asian traces.

Lin said Hoklo and Hakka DNA was diverse. She said the tests showed that more than 90 percent of Hoklo and Hakka have at least some Vietnamese ancestry, specifically from China's southeast coast.

Lin said genealogical analyses had shown Vietnamese are genetically more similar to Southeast Asians than northern Han.

Lin said Fujian's mountains made it easier historically for residents to have contact with Taiwan and Southeast Asia than with the rest of China to the north, which was reflected in the genetic make-up of the population.Official statistics show Taiwan's population consists of approximately 73.5 percent Hoklo, 17.5 percent Hakka, 7.5 percent Mainlanders (who arrived after 1945) and 1.5 percent Aborigines. Lin's study excluded Mainlanders.

Lin said that researchers began by recruiting volunteer blood donors. The first stage of the project consisted of analyzing the DNA of 100 Hoklo and Hakka -- 58 men and 42 women.

Of these, 67 percent were found to have Aboriginal ancestry through DNA comparison techniques. An additional 18 percent were found to have Aboriginal ancestry through HLA chromosome typing, bringing the total to 85 percent.

An analysis of the DNA of "pure" Aborigines as a group compared with the DNA of non-Aboriginal ethnic Taiwanese as a group showed that the Aborigines had a highly homogeneous genetic range because of thousands of years of isolation from other ethnic groups, Lin said. Hoklo and Hakka in Taiwan have developed a highly diverse genetic mix through marriages, she said.

Taiwanese Aborigines have close genetic links to Southeast Asian islanders such as Indonesians and Filipinos, Lin said.

Studies indicate Taiwanese Aborigines may have migrated from Southeast Asian islands tens of thousands years ago and that there may have been repeated waves of migration to and from Taiwan.

The summary of Lin's research has been submitted to a human genome conference to be held in the Philippines. Lin hopes that the statistical analysis of 200 blood samples will be completed by next year, with a goal of 300 samples after that.

Volunteers for the project can contact the Transfusion Medical Research Laboratory at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Tamshui.

Su Yi-ning (蘇怡寧), a physician at National Taiwan University Hospital's Medical Genetics Department, considers the results of the research to be "intriguing and logical."

Su said the research could help solve mysteries of human migration.

DNA studies have been controversial because of alleged cases of collecting Aboriginal blood without informed consent.

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