The “Austronesian advantage” suggests that Austronesian-speaking populations in Melanesia are resistant to tropical splenomegaly syndrome, a medical condition linked to chronic exposure to malaria. This hypothesis was proposed by Kevin M. Kelly in his 1988 dissertation, a subsequent 1990 paper, and a 1993 paper co-published with Jeffrey Clark. I now update the Austronesian advantage hypothesis with additional linguistic, anthropological, and genetic data. I find that cultural adaptations cannot fully explain the Austronesian expansion. Rather, the Austronesian advantage, a classic example of natural selection, completes the picture by connecting the Austronesian expansion with greater reproductive success. I also strengthen the Austronesian advantage hypothesis with data from Tibet. The correlation between language expansion and natural selection extends well beyond the Austronesian world.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited