NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 11, 2006

Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand, carry a "warrior" gene that makes them more prone to violence, criminal acts and risky behavior, a scientist has controversially claimed.

Dr. Rod Lea, a New Zealand researcher, and his colleagues told an Australian genetics conference that Maori men had a "striking over-representation" of monoamine oxidase - dubbed the warrior gene -- which they say is strongly associated with aggressive behavior.

  • He says the unpublished studies prove that Maoris have the highest prevalence of this strength gene, first discovered by U.S. researchers but never linked to an ethnic group.
  • This explains how Maoris migrated across the Pacific and survived, said Dr Lea, a genetic epidemiologist at the New Zealand Institute of Environmental Science and Research.
  • But, the presence of the gene also "goes a long way to explaining some of the problems Maoris have, he says.

"Obviously, this means they are going to be more aggressive and violent and more likely to get involved in risk-taking behavior like gambling," says Lea.  "Other, non-genetic factors might also be at play.  There are lots of lifestyle, upbringing-related exposures that could be relevant here, so obviously the gene won't automatically make you a criminal."

The researchers are now collecting thousands of DNA samples from Maoris to investigate these traits.  They can then work out precisely what role each gene plays and use this to explore these trends in the mainstream populations.

Source: "Once were warriors: gene linked to Maori violence," Associated Press/Sydney Morning Herald, August 9, 2006.

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