Evolution and the Colonization of the Pacific

Giving a talk at UCL on Monday, and also at the University of Bristol on Wednesday, has forced me to think a lot about relevant evolutionary and ecological processes that explain “mass” human movements: proximate triggers such as climate change, selection and the cost of migration, and other issues. All very relevant today.

Cochrane_UCLtalk

South American Demography Study

A new study in Nature by Goldberg et al. (http://rdcu.be/haRk) examines demographic patterns after initial colonization of South America. They rely on radiocarbon dates (summed probability distributions) and site distributions. I wonder if a similar procedure could be used for Lapita colonization of Remote Ocean and later East Polynesia. We do not have enough “clean” radiocarbon dates however (¬†http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/long/108/5/1815).

However, the explanation of the South American pattern is interesting: rapid dispersal and low impact on the enviroment through hunting/gathering and low level food production. Later agriculture increases and population growth turns exponential–sounds like Oceanic colonization to me…