Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2020 Mar 17;10(1):4901.
doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-61793-7.

The Early Peopling of the Philippines Based on mtDNA

Free PMC article

The Early Peopling of the Philippines Based on mtDNA

Miguel Arenas et al. Sci Rep. .
Free PMC article


Despite the efforts made to reconstruct the history of modern humans, there are still poorly explored regions that are key for understanding the phylogeography of our species. One of them is the Philippines, which is crucial to unravel the colonization of Southeast Asia and Oceania but where little is known about when and how the first humans arrived. In order to shed light into this settlement, we collected samples from 157 individuals of the Philippines with the four grandparents belonging to the same region and mitochondrial variants older than 20,000 years. Next, we analyzed the hypervariable I mtDNA region by approximate Bayesian computation based on extensive spatially explicit computer simulations to select among several migration routes towards the Philippines and to estimate population genetic parameters of this colonization. We found that the colonization of the Philippines occurred more than 60,000 years ago, with long-distance dispersal and from both north and south migration routes. Our results also suggest an environmental scenario especially optimal for humans, with large carrying capacity and population growth, in comparison to other regions of Asia. In all, our study suggests a rapid expansion of modern humans towards the Philippines that could be associated with the establisment of maritime technologies and favorable environmental conditions.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing interests.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Studied landscape, samples and colonization routes. The figure shows the sampling locations applied in this study, including sample size (number of individuals) in parenthesis. The figure also shows four possible routes of early colonization of the Philippine archipelago: (1) northern route, from Taiwan through the Luzon Strait; (2) southwest route, from Borneo through Palawan; (3) central south route, from east of Borneo crossing the Sulu Archipelago towards western Mindanao; (4) southeast route, from Sulawesi through southern Mindanao through the Sangihe Islands. Combining these four routes we proposed seven possible colonization scenarios that are explored in this study: (i) migration allowing LDD events (LDD); (ii) All corridors (AllCorr), where the four routes are used; (iii) North corridor (North), colonization exclusively from the north; (iv) All south corridors (AllSouth); (v) Southwest corridor (SW); (vi) South Central corridor (SC); (vii) Southeast corridor (SE). The satellite image was obtained from the Google Maps application [Google Maps attribution: Imagery (2019) Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Landsat/Copernicus, Map data (2019) Google;,108.7048144,3313765m/data=!3m1!1e3].

Similar articles

See all similar articles


    1. Malaspinas AS, et al. A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia. Nat. 2016;538:207–214. doi: 10.1038/nature18299. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Nielsen R, et al. Tracing the peopling of the world through genomics. Nat. 2017;541:302–310. doi: 10.1038/nature21347. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Barker G, et al. The ‘human revolution’ in lowland tropical Southeast Asia: the antiquity and behavior of anatomically modern humans at Niah Cave (Sarawak, Borneo) J. Hum. Evol. 2007;52:243–261. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2006.08.011. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Jinam TA, et al. Discerning the Origins of the Negritos, First Sundaland People: Deep Divergence and Archaic Admixture. Genome Biol. Evol. 2017;9:2013–2022. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evx118. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Jinam TA, et al. Evolutionary history of continental southeast Asians: “early train” hypothesis based on genetic analysis of mitochondrial and autosomal DNA data. Mol. Biol. Evol. 2012;29:3513–3527. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss169. - DOI - PubMed