Humans, like other extant species, have been successful in the course of evolution because of their ability to adapt to their ever changing environment. Both genetic and non-genetic evidence points to Africa as the main playground of our species for most of its evolutionary history, and suggests that for most of that history our ancestors fitness was linked to survival in low latitude specific environments. Over the past 100,000 years, however, humans dispersed globally, being repeatedly challenged to cope with the diverse range of natural environments and climate of our planet. The economic and cultural shifts from a non-sedentary lifestyle to a food producing and settled way of life in the last 10,000 years have further exposed us to a range of new diets and diseases related to increased population densities. In view of such major changes in the human environment, shifts brought about both by new lands, new socio-economic systems and changing climate, this project asks the question - How adapted to their environment are humans today? In order to answer this question, this project proposes a multidisciplinary approach that combines genetic and non-genetic evidence on human demographic history, phenotypic adaptation and genetic differentiation. The aim of the project is to reveal which parts of our genome have experienced the highest degree of change recently, thus showing us the way to identify those aspects of our biology that have been, or still are, most maladapted to our modern environments. The project will focus on three major aspects of human adaptation climate (cold, sun exposure), nutrition and lifestyle. To explore these, the project will focus on three areas of the world North Asia (Siberia), Southeast Asia and North Africa. For each of these areas, it will compare past and present environments, history of population dispersals, and contrast the patterns of phenotypic and genomic diversity in the populations living there today.
Fields of science
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