PROFESSOR REBECCA CANN
: The resounding answer from human genetics is no, Polynesians do not come from South America.
They most assuredly come from probably some part of Southeast Asia.
JOHN RIEGER: In the early 1980s Professor Rebecca Cann a molecular biologist at the University of Hawaii began studying a rare genetic mutation, a tiny fragment of DNA that seems to appear in people of Southeast Asian heritage no matter where they live today.
: Then when I began working in the Pacific uh we discovered that they were a very high frequency of Tahitians, of Marquesans, of Easter Islanders, of Hawaiians, of Cook Islanders.
In order to figure that out, Cann
attention to another bit of DNA
known to be hyper variable.
mutates so frequently that each new settlement established during some ancient migration would have its own genetic signature.
But to decide which mutations and which settlements came first, Cann
would have to look several thousand years into the genetic past.
: You try to reconstruct what were the ancestral mutations and which are new ones which have appeared in a certain period of time and are restricted geographically, or ethnically or culturally in some way.
: Horticulturists have DNA sequences from the sweet potatoes and they can actually identify that the cultivar is the same germ plasm.
: We say as geneticists this is likely but the people who actually attempt to reconstruct how it's done, they...they are showing us what it might have been to actually experience it historically.