Correlations in the population structure of music, genes and language

Steven Brown*, Patrick E. Savage, Albert Min Shan Ko, Mark Stoneking, Ying Chin Ko, Jun Hun Loo, Jean A. Trejaut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

51 Scopus citations


We present, to our knowledge, the first quantitative evidence that music and genes may have coevolved by demonstrating significant correlations between traditional group-level folk songs and mitochondrial DNA variation among nine indigenous populations of Taiwan. These correlations were of comparable magnitude to those between language and genes for the same populations, although music and language were not significantly correlated with one another. An examination of population structure for genetics showed stronger parallels to music than to language. Overall, the results suggest that music might have a sufficient time-depth to retrace ancient population movements and, additionally, that it might be capturing different aspects of population history than language. Music may therefore have the potential to serve as a novel marker of human migrations to complement genes, language and other markers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20132386
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1774
StatePublished - 13 11 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Coevolution
  • Genes
  • Language
  • Music
  • Population structure
  • Taiwan


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