Heterogeneity of Taiwan's indigenous population: possible relation to prehistoric Mongoloid dispersals

Tissue Antigens. 2000 Jan;55(1):1-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0039.2000.550101.x.


Taiwan's 9 indigenous tribes (Tsou, Bunun, Paiwan, Rukai, Atayal, Saisiat, Ami, Puyuma, Yami) are highly homogeneous within each tribe, but diversified among the different tribes due to long-term isolation, most probably since Taiwan became an island about 12,000 years ago. Homogeneity of each tribe is evidenced by many HLA-A,B,C alleles having the world's highest ever reported frequencies, e.g. A24 (86.3%), A26 (18.8%), Cw10 (36.8%), Cw7 (66%), Cw8 (32.1%), B13 (27.9%), B62 (37.4%), B75 (18%), B39 (53.5%), B60 (33.3%), and B48 (24%). Also, all of these tribes have HLA class I haplotype frequencies greater than 10%, with A24-Cw7-B39 in Saisiat (44.5%) being the highest, suggesting Taiwan's indigenous tribes are probably the most homogeneous ( the "purest") population in the world. A24-Cw8-B48, A24-Cw10-B60 and A24-Cw9-B61 found common to many Taiwan indigenous tribes, have also been observed in Maori, Papua New Guinea Highlanders, Orochons, Mongolians, Inuit, Japanese, Man, Buryat, Yakut, Tlingit, Tibetans and Thais. These findings suggest Taiwan's indigenous groups are more or less genetically related to both northern and southern Asians. Principal component analysis and the phylogenetic tree (using the neighbor-joining method) showed close relationship between the indigenous groups and Oceanians. This relationship supports the hypothesis that Taiwan was probably on the route of prehistoric Mongoloid dispersals that most likely took place along the coastal lowland of the Asian continent (which is under the sea today). Cultural anthropology also suggests a relationship between Taiwan's indigenous tribes and southern Asians and to a lesser extent, northern Asians. However, the indigenous groups show little genetic relationship to current southern and northern Han Chinese.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency
  • HLA-A Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-B Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-C Antigens / genetics*
  • Haplotypes*
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny*
  • Taiwan / ethnology


  • HLA-A Antigens
  • HLA-B Antigens
  • HLA-C Antigens