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Long-term trends in human body size track regional variation in subsistence transitions and growth acceleration linked to dairying

Stock, Jay T; Pomeroy, Emma; Ruff, Christopher B; Brown, Marielle; Gasperetti, Matthew A; Li, Fa-Jun; Maher, Lisa; ... Wells, Jonathan CK; + view all (2023) Long-term trends in human body size track regional variation in subsistence transitions and growth acceleration linked to dairying. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A , 120 (4) , Article e2209482119. 10.1073/pnas.2209482119. Green open access

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Abstract

Evidence for a reduction in stature between Mesolithic foragers and Neolithic farmers has been interpreted as reflective of declines in health, however, our current understanding of this trend fails to account for the complexity of cultural and dietary transitions or the possible causes of phenotypic change. The agricultural transition was extended in primary centers of domestication and abrupt in regions characterized by demic diffusion. In regions such as Northern Europe where foreign domesticates were difficult to establish, there is strong evidence for natural selection for lactase persistence in relation to dairying. We employ broad-scale analyses of diachronic variation in stature and body mass in the Levant, Europe, the Nile Valley, South Asia, and China, to test three hypotheses about the timing of subsistence shifts and human body size, that: 1) the adoption of agriculture led to a decrease in stature, 2) there were different trajectories in regions of in situ domestication or cultural diffusion of agriculture; and 3) increases in stature and body mass are observed in regions with evidence for selection for lactase persistence. Our results demonstrate that 1) decreases in stature preceded the origins of agriculture in some regions; 2) the Levant and China, regions of in situ domestication of species and an extended period of mixed foraging and agricultural subsistence, had stable stature and body mass over time; and 3) stature and body mass increases in Central and Northern Europe coincide with the timing of selective sweeps for lactase persistence, providing support for the "Lactase Growth Hypothesis."

Type: Article
Title: Long-term trends in human body size track regional variation in subsistence transitions and growth acceleration linked to dairying
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2209482119
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2209482119
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2023 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).
Keywords: agriculture, bioarchaeology, domestication, health, human adaptation, Humans, Dairying, Agriculture, Europe, Body Size, Lactase, Acceleration
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Population, Policy and Practice Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10163688
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