ESM Figure 2. Median-joining network depicting the relationship of the E haplotypes observed in East Africa and Madagascar (blue), South Asia (black) and Indonesia (green) from East African origins for Madagascan chickens as indicated by mitochondrial DNA

The colonization of Madagascar by Austronesian-speaking people during AD 50–500 represents the most westerly point of the greatest diaspora in prehistory. A range of economically important plants and animals may have accompanied the Austronesians. Domestic chickens (Gallus gallus) are found in Madagascar, but it is unclear how they arrived there. Did they accompany the initial Austronesian-speaking populations that reached Madagascar via the Indian Ocean or were they late arrivals with Arabian and African sea-farers? To address this question, we investigated the mitochondrial DNA control region diversity of modern chickens sampled from around the Indian Ocean rim (Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and Madagascar). In contrast to the linguistic and human genetic evidence indicating dual African and Southeast Asian ancestry of the Malagasy people, we find that chickens in Madagascar only share a common ancestor with East Africa, which together are genetically closer to South Asian chickens than to those in Southeast Asia. This suggests that the earliest expansion of Austronesian-speaking people across the Indian Ocean did not successfully introduce chickens to Madagascar. Our results further demonstrate the complexity of the translocation history of introduced domesticates in Madagascar.