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Papuan is an umbrella term for the various indigenous peoples of New Guinea and neighbouring islands, speakers of so-called Papuan languages. They are often distinguished linguistically from Austronesians, speakers of a language family introduced into New Guinea about three thousand years ago, but this is not always an ethnic distinction, as New Guinea Austronesians are often seen as Papuan in culture.[clarification needed]
In a 2005 study of ASPM gene variants, Mekel-Bobrov et al. found that the Papuan people have among the highest rate of the newly evolved ASPM haplogroup D, at 59.4% occurrence of the approximately 6,000-year-old allele. While it is not yet known exactly what selective advantage is provided by this gene variant, the haplogroup D allele is thought to be positively selected in populations and to confer some substantial advantage that has caused its frequency to rapidly increase.
According to one study, Papuan people, together with Melanesians, are the only known modern humans whose prehistoric ancestors interbred with the Denisova hominin, with whom they share 4%–6% of their genome.
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