On 12 September at 15:15, Mathilde André will defend her doctoral thesis, "New Guinea, a hotspot for Human evolution: settlement history and adaptation in northern Sahul".
1. Mayukh Mondal, PhD; Research Fellow of Evolutionary Genetics, Centre for Genomics, Evolution & Medicine Institute of Genomics, University of Tartu, Estonia; Researcher, Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology; Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany
2. François-Xavier Ricaut, PhD; Senior Researcher, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Department of Evolution and Biological Diversity, Université de Toulouse, France.
Ian Mathieson, PhD; Associate Professor of Genetics, Department of Genetics, University of Pennsylvania, United States
New Guinea is home to the longest continuous settlement by anatomically modern humans outside of Africa. The exact path taken by the first settlers migrating to New Guinea is still shrouded in mystery. One way to explore the possible scenarios of settlement is to build models for different hypotheses and to compute the likelihood of each model depending on the genomes of the current New Guinean population. Upon arrival, the first settlers faced diverse landscapes, including the highest summits in Oceania. Despite the challenge of life at high altitude, including the lower availability of oxygen, the highlands are the most densely populated region of New Guinea. New Guinean lowlands also present numerous obstacles to survival, including diverse pathogens. When a population encounters challenging environments for thousands of years, some individuals might develop traits that enhance their survival. This process, called positive natural selection, leads to specific signatures in the genomes of populations that can be identified with different tests. This dissertation presents the potential routes taken by Papua New Guinean ancestors before settling in Papua New Guinea and how environmental selection pressures have shaped Papua New Guinean genomes. This thesis explores the genetic and phenotypic diversity of Papua New Guinean populations through newly sequenced whole genomes and phenotypic measurements from Papua New Guinean individuals. The first study describes the first models for Northern Sahul settlement based on genomic data. The second study identifies the genomic regions under selection in Papua New Guineans following the initial settlement of New Guinea and the exposure to a new environment. The third study defines phenotypic differences between Papua New Guinean highlanders and lowlanders. Finally, our fourth study identifies genomic regions specifically under selection in Papua New Guinean highlanders and lowlanders.
The defence can also be followed in Zoom: https://ut-ee.zoom.us/j/92172461022?pwd=aHllSTJyaUttSHArd29kelk0eERNQT09. Meeting ID: 921 7246 1022, Passcode: 569316.