Feb 4, 2023
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On this episode of Unsupervised Learning Razib discusses the origins of the people of Madagascar in a companion podcast to his two-part series on the genetics and history of the island. An ecologically unique island off Africa’s southeast coast, for tens of millions of years Madagascar forged its own evolutionary path, distinct from Africa to the west and unconnected to the world of the Indian Ocean coastlines to the north and east. All this changed more than 1,000 years ago when the ancestors of the Malagasy voyaged westward from southern Borneo, crossing the Indian Ocean, and began clearing the forests of the highlands of Madagascar. This resulted in a mass extinction event that transformed Madagascar’s unique fauna into something poorer and less diverse, with the disappearance of, among others, hulking, flightless birds and giant lemurs. But the arrival of the Magalasy also connected the island to Africa, as Bantu pastoralists joined the rice farmers from Borneo, fusing into one people, a unique mix unseen elsewhere.