My anthropology professor claimed that certain genetic simulations showed that the Australian Aborigines could have descended from a population of only one man and two women. Those three people and their offspring could have sustained a genetically health population that's lasted tens of thousands of years.

I'm not really able to find the study she was referencing. Is it possible that a genetically healthy population, in this case the Indigenous Australians, could descend from just one man and two women? I know that the Samaritans are in a genetic crisis and their population never dropped lower than about 100.

  • 1
    You have 2 question here one is on topic (Could the Australian Aborigines have Descended from Three People?) The other is off topic (How is it that you can develop a healthy population from three people?) that is a topic for Biology SE.
    – Chad
    Feb 7, 2013 at 22:24
  • Welcome to Skeptics. We want to focus our attention on doubtful claims that are widely held or are made by notable people. This claim doesn't seem to be widespread. Could it be simply a confusion with the idea that the Cadigal people of the Sydney area may have been reduced to 3 people by smallpox? Please provide some references to places where this claim is being made.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 8, 2013 at 6:24
  • @Chad, no, you are wrong. The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology. So we must be skeptical of the 2nd question too. Feb 9, 2013 at 10:36
  • @carlo_R - Only if there is a notable claim saying that it can... that is lacking, and a question that comes from the OP not a notable claim... that is what makes it off topic.
    – Chad
    Feb 9, 2013 at 16:03

1 Answer 1



This paper looked at the genetic diversity of Australian Aborigines and other indigenous populations in the area. It concludes:

The proposed genetic separation among Aboriginal populations could have occurred after a single large population movement to Australia or as the result of multiple migrations over the course of generations from a heterogeneous source population.

While they are vague about how many people are included in a "large" population movement, they quote another researcher with a similar, more precise figure.

Kayser et al. (2001) proposed that the high frequency of a unique haplotype in Australia is the result of a population expansion that started from a few hundred individuals.

However, they argue that:

there does not appear to be a corresponding loss of genetic diversity resulting from a bottleneck seen among mitochondrial lineages.

So, the number may be higher than just a few hundred.

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