Resolving the ancestry of Austronesian‑speaking populations.

Maru Mormina, Pedro Soares, Jean Trejaut, Teresa Rito, Bruno Cavadas, Catherine Hill, Ken Khong Eng, Andreia Brandao, Ross Fraser, Tse-Yi Wang, Jun-Hun Loo, Christopher Snell, Tsang-Ming Ko, Antonio Amorim, Maria Pala, Vincent Macaulay, David Bulbeck, James Wilson, Leonor Gusmao, Luisa PereiraStephen Oppenheimer, Marie Lin, Martin Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There are two very different interpretations of the prehistory of Island Southeast Asia (ISEA), with genetic evidence invoked in support of both. The “out-of-Taiwan” model proposes a major Late Holocene expansion of Neolithic Austronesian speakers from Taiwan. An alternative, proposing that Late Glacial/postglacial sea-level rises triggered largely autochthonous dispersals, accounts for some otherwise enigmatic genetic patterns, but fails to explain the Austronesian language dispersal. Combining mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome and genome-wide data, we performed the most comprehensive analysis of the region to date, obtaining highly consistent results across all three systems and allowing us to reconcile the models. We infer a primarily common ancestry for Taiwan/ISEA populations established before the Neolithic, but also detected clear signals of two minor Late Holocene migrations, probably representing Neolithic input from both Mainland Southeast Asia and South China, via Taiwan. This latter may therefore have mediated the Austronesian language dispersal, implying small-scale migration and language shift rather than large-scale expansion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-326
JournalHuman Genetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2016


  • genetic evidence
  • prehistory
  • Island Southeast Asia (ISEA)
  • Neolithic Austronesian speakers
  • language dispersal
  • migration

Cite this

Mormina, M., Soares, P., Trejaut, J., Rito, T., Cavadas, B., Hill, C., Eng, K. K., Brandao, A., Fraser, R., Wang, T-Y., Loo, J-H., Snell, C., Ko, T-M., Amorim, A., Pala, M., Macaulay, V., Bulbeck, D., Wilson, J., Gusmao, L., ... Richards, M. (2016). Resolving the ancestry of Austronesian‑speaking populations. Human Genetics, 135(3), 309-326.