Evolutionary history of modern Samoans

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Apr 28;117(17):9458-9465. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1913157117. Epub 2020 Apr 14.


Archaeological studies estimate the initial settlement of Samoa at 2,750 to 2,880 y ago and identify only limited settlement and human modification to the landscape until about 1,000 to 1,500 y ago. At this point, a complex history of migration is thought to have begun with the arrival of people sharing ancestry with Near Oceanic groups (i.e., Austronesian-speaking and Papuan-speaking groups), and was then followed by the arrival of non-Oceanic groups during European colonialism. However, the specifics of this peopling are not entirely clear from the archaeological and anthropological records, and is therefore a focus of continued debate. To shed additional light on the Samoan population history that this peopling reflects, we employ a population genetic approach to analyze 1,197 Samoan high-coverage whole genomes. We identify population splits between the major Samoan islands and detect asymmetrical gene flow to the capital city. We also find an extreme bottleneck until about 1,000 y ago, which is followed by distinct expansions across the islands and subsequent bottlenecks consistent with European colonization. These results provide for an increased understanding of Samoan population history and the dynamics that inform it, and also demonstrate how rapid demographic processes can shape modern genomes.

Keywords: Austronesian; Oceania; fine-scale population structure; genetically understudied populations; rare variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Demography
  • Humans
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / genetics*
  • Samoa
  • Time Factors