mtDNA and language support a common origin of Micronesians and Polynesians in Island Southeast Asia

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1998 Feb;105(2):109-19. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199802)105:2<109::AID-AJPA1>3.0.CO;2-Q.


The origins and relationships among Micronesians, Polynesians, and Melanesians were investigated. Five different mtDNA region V length polymorphisms from 873 individuals representing 24 Oceanic and Asian populations were analyzed. The frequency cline of a common deletion and the distributions of a rare expanded length polymorphism support the origin of both Micronesians and Polynesians in Island Southeast Asia. Genetic, linguistic, and geographic distances were compared to assess the relative importance of isolation and gene flow during the prehistory of 19 Austronesian-speaking populations subdivided into five potential spheres of interaction. We observed significant correlations (P < 0.05) between genetic and linguistic distances in four of five comparisons. These data indicate extensive gene flow throughout much of Micronesia, but substantial isolation in other Pacific regions. Although recent advancements in our understanding of intentional voyaging within Remote Oceania have challenged the existence of the "myth of the primitive isolate," we caution against the adoption of panmictic alternatives.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Southeastern
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Humans
  • Linguistics*
  • Pacific Islands
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial