Isolation, contact and social behavior shaped genetic diversity in West Timor

Meryanne K. Tumonggor, Tatiana M. Karafet, Sean Downey, J. Stephen Lansing, Peter Norquest, Herawati Sudoyo, Michael F. Hammer, Murray P. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Timor, an eastern Indonesian island linking mainland Asia with Australia and the Pacific world, had a complex history, including its role as a contact zone between two language families (Austronesian and Trans-New Guinean), as well as preserving elements of a rich Austronesian cultural heritage, such as matrilocal marriage practices. Using an array of biparental (autosomal and X-chromosome single-nucleotide polymorphisms) and uniparental markers (Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA), we reconstruct a broad genetic profile of Timorese in the Belu regency of West Timor, including the traditional princedom of Wehali, focusing on the effects of cultural practices, such as language and social change, on patterns of genetic diversity. Sex-linked data highlight the different histories and social pressures experienced by women and men. Measures of diversity and population structure show that Timorese men had greater local mobility than women, as expected in matrilocal communities, where women remain in their natal village, whereas men move to the home village of their wife. Reaching further back in time, maternal loci (mitochondrial DNA and the X chromosome) are dominated by lineages with immigrant Asian origins, whereas paternal loci (Y chromosome) tend to exhibit lineages of the earliest settlers in the eastern Indonesian region. The dominance of Asian female lineages is especially apparent in the X chromosome compared with the autosomes, suggesting that women played a paramount role during and after the period of Asian immigration into Timor, perhaps driven by the matrilocal marriage practices of expanding Austronesian communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-503
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of human genetics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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