The Taiwanese origin of Austronesians is widely accepted. A new preprint confirms this theory, but adds a new twist to the story of Austronesian dispersals, as it seems that in their western expansion, Austronesians picked up some Austroasiatic ancestry. This means either that Austroasiatic speakers preceded them in islands where Austronesian languages are now spoken, or that the Austronesians picked up this kind of ancestry in the mainland before settling in the islands.
bioRxiv, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/005603
Reconstructing Austronesian population history in Island Southeast Asia
Mark Lipson et al.
Austronesian languages are spread across half the globe, from Easter Island to Madagascar. Evidence from linguistics and archaeology indicates that the "Austronesian expansion," which began 4-5 thousand years ago, likely had roots in Taiwan, but the ancestry of present-day Austronesian-speaking populations remains controversial. Here, focusing primarily on Island Southeast Asia, we analyze genome-wide data from 56 populations using new methods for tracing ancestral gene flow. We show that all sampled Austronesian groups harbor ancestry that is more closely related to aboriginal Taiwanese than to any present-day mainland population. Surprisingly, western Island Southeast Asian populations have also inherited ancestry from a source nested within the variation of present-day populations speaking Austro-Asiatic languages, which have historically been nearly exclusive to the mainland. Thus, either there was once a substantial Austro-Asiatic presence in Island Southeast Asia, or Austronesian speakers migrated to and through the mainland, admixing there before continuing to western Indonesia.