Prehistoric human migration between Sundaland and South Asia was driven by sea-level rise

Publication type

Journal Article

Research Area


Research Team

Sea Level Research

Geographic Area

Asia > Southeast Asia, Asia


Rapid sea-level rise between the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and the mid-Holocene transformed the Southeast Asian coastal landscape, but the impact on human demography remains unclear. Here, we create a paleogeographic map, focusing on sea-level changes during the period spanning the LGM to the present-day and infer the human population history in Southeast and South Asia using 763 high-coverage whole-genome sequencing datasets from 59 ethnic groups. We show that sea-level rise, in particular meltwater pulses 1 A (MWP1A, ~14,500–14,000 years ago) and 1B (MWP1B, ~11,500–11,000 years ago), reduced land area by over 50% since the LGM, resulting in segregation of local human populations. Following periods of rapid sea-level rises, population pressure drove the migration of Malaysian Negritos into South Asia. Integrated paleogeographic and population genomic analysis demonstrates the earliest documented instance of forced human migration driven by sea-level rise.

Publication Details


Communications Biology





Date Published



Subscribe to the EOS Newsletter

Stay in touch with the latest news, events, research, and publications from the Earth Observatory of Singapore.

Email is required

Email is wrong format

You Can Make a Difference

Partner with us to make an impact and create safer, more sustainable societies throughout Southeast Asia.
Make A Gift