Local adaptations in humans

Published on March 18, 2015   44 min

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Other Talks in the Series: Human Population Genetics II

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My name is Anna Di Rienzo from the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago. Today, I will review recent studies about how human populations adapted to the different environments in which they live. I will review the models through which these adaptations took place, some of the methods used to look for signals of local adaptations and how to interpret their results. I will describe some of the biological findings obtained in these studies.
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Probably, one of the most striking aspects of evolution of our species is that tremendous diversity of environments, illustrated here by a map of the ecoregions, that humans have encountered during their history and have adapted to. Both genetic data and the fossil record indicate that modern humans originated somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, and from there they dispersed across the globe to occupy every corner of the earth landmass. In so doing, they have encountered a variety of environmental challenges, including different climates, different levels of UV radiation, different pathogens and available resources. In addition, during this history they have introduced a number of cultural and technological innovations, which in turn have created new selective pressures. In response to these environmental challenges, human populations have evolved a number of cultural, behavioral, as well as genetic adaptations that lead to that wonderful phenotypic and cultural diversity that we see today in contemporary populations.