The Solomon Islands lie in the center of Island Melanesia, bordered to the north by the Bismarck Archipelago and to the south by Vanuatu. The nation's half-million inhabitants speak around 70 languages from two unrelated language groups: Austronesian, a language family widespread in the Pacific and closely related to languages spoken in Island Southeast Asia, and "East Papuan", generally defined as non-Austronesian and distantly related to the extremely diverse Papuan languages of New Guinea. Despite the archipelago's presumed role as a staging post for the settlement of Remote Oceania, genetic research on Solomon Island populations is sparse. We collected paired samples from two regions that have populations speaking Austronesian and Papuan languages, respectively. Here we present Y-chromosome data from these samples, the first from Solomon Islands. We detected five Y-chromosome lineages: M-M106, O-M175, K-M9*, K-M230, and the extremely rare clade, K1-M177. Y-chromosome lineages from Solomon Islands fall within the range of other Island Melanesian populations but display markedly lower haplogroup diversity. From a broad Indo-Pacific perspective, Y-chromosome lineages show partial association with the distribution of language groups: O-M175 is associated spatially with Austronesian-speaking areas, whereas M-M106 broadly correlates with the distribution of Papuan languages. However, no relationship between Y-chromosome lineages and language affiliation was observed on a small scale within Solomon Islands. This pattern may result from a sampling strategy that targeted small communities, where individual Y-chromosome lineages can be fixed or swept to extinction by genetic drift or favored paternal exogamy.
Am. J. Hum. Biol. 18:35-50, 2006. (c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.