Located in the south Pacific Ocean, Rapanui is one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. Cultural and biological data suggest that the initial Rapanui population originated from central Polynesia, although the presence of foreign or exotic genes in the contemporary population, as a result of admixture with Europeans and/or South Americans during the last two centuries, also has to be considered. To estimate the genetic affinities of the Rapanui population with neighboring populations, we analyzed seven microsatellite polymorphisms of the Y chromosome that recently have been indicated as useful in the study of local population structure and recent demographic history. Phylogenetic analysis of Rapanui Y-chromosome haplotypes identified two clusters. The largest cluster contained 60% of all haplotypes and is characterized, in particular, by the presence of the DYS19*16, DYS390*20, and DYS393*14 alleles, a combination found frequently in Western Samoa. The second cluster is characterized by the presence of the DYS19*14, DYS390*24, and DYS393*13 alleles, and these have a relatively high frequency in European and European-derived populations but are either infrequent or absent in native Pacific populations. In addition to the two clusters, one male is of haplogroup Q*, which is indicative of native American ancestry. The genetic structure of the current male population of Rapanui is most likely a product of some genetic contribution from European and South American invaders who mated with the indigenous Polynesian women. However, analysis of Rapanui's relationships with other Pacific and Asian populations indicates that, as in Western Samoa and Samoa, the population has experienced extreme drift and founder events.
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Vol. 78 • No. 5