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Climate Change Influenced Female Population Sizes through Time across the Indonesian Archipelago


Lying at the crossroads of Asia and the Pacific world, the Indonesian archipelago hosts one of the world’s richest accumulations of cultural, linguistic, and genetic variation. While the role of human migration into and around the archipelago is now known in some detail, other aspects of Indonesia’s complex history are less understood. Here, we focus on population size changes from the first settlement of Indonesia nearly 50 kya up to the historic era. We reconstructed the past effective population sizes of Indonesian women using mitochondrial DNA sequences from 2,104 individuals in 55 village communities on four islands spanning the Indonesian archipelago (Bali, Flores, Sumba, and Timor). We found little evidence for large fluctuations in effective population size. Most communities grew slowly during the late Pleistocene, peaked 15–20 kya, and subsequently declined slowly into the Holocene. This unexpected pattern may reflect population declines caused by the flooding of lowland hunter/gatherer habitat during sea-level rises following the last glacial maximum.

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