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Life history trade-offs explain the evolution of human pygmies

Migliano, AB; Vinicius, L; Lahr, MM; (2007) Life history trade-offs explain the evolution of human pygmies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 104 (51) pp. 20216-20219. 10.1073/pnas.0708024105. Green open access


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Explanations for the evolution of human pygmies continue to be a matter of controversy, recently fuelled by the disagreements surrounding the interpretation of the fossil hominin Homo floresiensis. Traditional hypotheses assume that the small body size of human pygmies is an adaptation to special challenges, such as thermoregulation, locomotion in dense forests, or endurance against starvation. Here, we present an analysis of stature, growth, and individual fitness for a large population of Aeta and a smaller one of Batak from the Philippines and compare it with data on other pygmy groups accumulated by anthropologists for a century. The results challenge traditional explanations of human pygmy body size. We argue that human pygmy populations and adaptations evolved independently as the result of a life history tradeoff between the fertility benefits of larger body size against the costs of late growth cessation, under circumstances of significant young and adult mortality. Human pygmies do not appear to have evolved through positive selection for small stature-this was a by-product of selection for early onset of reproduction.

Type: Article
Title: Life history trade-offs explain the evolution of human pygmies
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0708024105
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0708024105
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record . For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Biological Evolution, Fertility, Fossils, History, Ancient, Humans, Life, Mortality, Philippines
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1364248
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