Madagascar: A History of Arrivals, What Happened, and Will Happen Next

Posted: 8 Oct 2012

Date Written: October 2012


Most of the ancestors of today's human and animal populations reached Madagascar over the last 65 million years, by a variety of routes at a variety of times. Settlers encountered a big, isolated island with an unpredictable climate and a wide array of landscapes. Although patterns of diversification were driven by different mechanisms in humans and animals, the complex interplay between historical contingency and responsiveness to local conditions is evident in both. Global climate change will affect Madagascar, although exactly how remains unclear, and the immediate impact of human activity on the island is overtaking that of gradual global change. Three themes in this review bear on the future: the continuing impact of recent, cataclysmic events on modern communities of people, plants, and animals; Madagascar's long and dynamic environmental history; and the complicated history of how people settled and interacted with the island's landscapes. A deeper understanding of all three can contribute to wise decision making in the coming years.

Suggested Citation

Dewar, Robert and Richard, Alison F., Madagascar: A History of Arrivals, What Happened, and Will Happen Next (October 2012). Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 41, pp. 495-517, 2012, Available at SSRN: or

Robert Dewar (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Alison F. Richard

Yale University

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

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