Prehistoric human migration between Sundaland and South Asia was driven by sea-level rise

Hie Lim Kim, Tanghua Li, Namrata Kalsi, Hung Tran The Nguyen, Timothy A. Shaw, Khai C. Ang, Keith C. Cheng, Aakrosh Ratan, W. Richard Peltier, Dhrubajyoti Samanta, Mahesh Pratapneni, Stephan C. Schuster, Benjamin P. Horton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Rapid sea-level rise between the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and the mid-Holocene transformed the Southeast Asian coastal landscape, but the impact on human demography remains unclear. Here, we create a paleogeographic map, focusing on sea-level changes during the period spanning the LGM to the present-day and infer the human population history in Southeast and South Asia using 763 high-coverage whole-genome sequencing datasets from 59 ethnic groups. We show that sea-level rise, in particular meltwater pulses 1 A (MWP1A, ~14,500–14,000 years ago) and 1B (MWP1B, ~11,500–11,000 years ago), reduced land area by over 50% since the LGM, resulting in segregation of local human populations. Following periods of rapid sea-level rises, population pressure drove the migration of Malaysian Negritos into South Asia. Integrated paleogeographic and population genomic analysis demonstrates the earliest documented instance of forced human migration driven by sea-level rise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number150
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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