Minimum founding populations for the first peopling of Sahul

Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Sean Ulm, Alan N. Williams, Michael I. Bird, Richard G. Roberts, Zenobia Jacobs, Fiona Laviano, Laura S Weyrich, Tobias Friedrich, Kasih Norman, Frederik Saltre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The timing, context and nature of the first people to enter Sahul is still poorly understood owing to a fragmented archaeological record. However, quantifying the plausible demographic context of this founding population is essential to determine how and why the initial peopling of Sahul occurred. We developed a stochastic, age-structured model using demographic rates from hunter-gatherer societies, and relative carrying capacity hindcasted with LOVECLIM’s net primary productivity for northern Sahul. We projected these populations to determine the resilience and minimum sizes required to avoid extinction. A census founding population of between 1,300 and 1,550 individuals was necessary to maintain a quasi-extinction threshold of ≲0.1. This minimum founding population could have arrived at a single point in time, or through multiple voyages of ≥130 people over ~700–900 years. This result shows that substantial population amalgamation in Sunda and Wallacea in Marine Isotope Stages 3–4 provided the conditions for the successful, large-scale and probably planned peopling of Sahul.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1063
Number of pages7
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2019


  • first peopling
  • Sahul
  • stochastic modelling
  • Archaeology
  • Ecological modelling
  • Palaeoecology
  • Population dynamics


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