Manual Causes and Consequences of Human Migration: An Evolutionary Perspective

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Institutional Subscription. Free Shipping Free global shipping No minimum order. Offers comprehensive coverage of the wide ranging field of human evolution Written for a non-expert audience, providing accessible and convenient content that will appeal to numerous readers across the interdisciplinary field Provides expertise from leading minds in the field Allows the reader the ability to gain exposure to various topics in one publication.

Dedication Preface Part I. Positioning Human Evolution Introduction Chapter 1. Primates Introduction Chapter 3. Hominins Introduction Chapter 7. Why Did Bipedalism Evolve? Chapter 9. Genetics and Biology Introduction Chapter Chapter Lifeways Introduction Chapter Health Introduction Chapter Behavior and Culture Introduction Chapter Adaptations for Mating Conclusions Chapter Powered by.

You are connected as. Connect with:. Use your name:. Thank you for posting a review! We value your input. Share your review so everyone else can enjoy it too. Phylogenetic analysis has helped us reconstruct the early spread of the human immunodeficiency virus around the globe Korber et al. Models of sequence evolution can inform the process of designing each year's influenza vaccine Russell et al.

Mathematical models of disease emergence have likewise been useful in developing mitigation plans for potential pandemic strains of influenza Ferguson et al. Infections can also shape human evolution. While much in the historical record remains speculative and inferential, there are some contemporary, well-recorded examples. For example, kuru is a prion-caused neurodegenerative disease transmitted by cannibalistic funeral rites in New Guinea.

Some mutations in the prion protein gene confer partial or even strong resistance to the disease. There is now evidence that these resistance genes only emerged in recent generations from a common ancestor some 10 generations ago and that that resistance gene is now well spread throughout the population at risk.

This may in part explain the recent reduction in the incidence of kuru Mead et al. Many features of human anatomy associated with potential pathology represent the consequences of our evolutionary history. A well-known example is the appendix: while it evolved to improve digestion for the vegetarian diet of earlier members of our clade, it has no function in human digestion and infection in the appendiceal lumen leads to appendicitis.

The appendix cannot become lost over evolutionary time, because it will first need to decrease in size and this inherently promotes the development of appendicitis Nesse and Williams Other examples include the risk of detached retina, which arises because the mammalian lineage evolved with the vascular layer in front of the neural layer, in contrast to the cephalopod eye Fernald , and the risks of obstruction at birth resulting from the conflict between the shape of the female pelvis in a bipedal ape and the large human fetal brain size Rosenberg and Trevathan In comparison with the chimpanzee, the human infant encounters a much narrower pelvis and must go through a series of rotations during delivery.

Back pain and spinal problems can be understood in terms of the compromises made some 6 million years ago, when human ancestors adopted an upright posture Anderson , and our large head and truncal weight serve as risk factors for spinal disk injury. Scurvy, as discussed earlier, represents the result of a mutation that was presumably neutral when it first arose in a frugivorous ancestor.

Many anatomical features of humans, such as the loss of most of their body hair, may have their origin in sexual selection. Men at all ages have a higher mortality than women Office for National Statistics , and the life history explanation for this phenomenon has been extensively discussed Kruger and Nesse Male mortality is particularly high in the early reproductive years and is associated with violence and other acting out behaviors. Such differences might be best understood in terms of mate-seeking behaviors, where the investment in competition for a mate leads to comparatively greater fitness pay-offs for men.

Some sexually dimorphic characteristics also impose a burden on men: higher testosterone favors higher body mass and aggressive behavior, but is also thought to be an immunosuppressant, therefore increasing susceptibility to infectious disease Muehlenbein and Bribiescas Other factors like higher somatic maintenance and faster aging in males are also thought to play a role. There is an extensive evolutionary psychology literature that aims to explain much of human behavior in terms of mate-seeking behavior and sexual competition.

Unfortunately, there has been much over-statement and popularization in this domain that has harmed the overall incorporation of evolutionary thought into medicine. However, while evolutionary psychology has its limitations, the role of sexual selection in the origin of both physical and behavioral traits should not be ignored.

In population genetics, the examples of sickle cell anemia, the thalassemias, and glucosephosphate dehydrogenase deficiency have all been explained in terms of the heterozygote advantage providing resistance against malaria, whereas the homozygous form is associated with more severe disease Luzzatto Recently, the possession of two variants in the APOL1 gene—a characteristic common in Africans but absent in Europeans—was shown to be associated with an increased risk of renal disease Genovese et al.

The protein produced by these variants showed lytic activity against the trypanosome parasite that causes sleeping sickness, suggesting that the risk alleles were maintained to help confer a protective effect. The association of the variants with protection was dominant, while that with renal disease was recessive, pointing towards a heterozygous advantage model.


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Speculation persists about other common alleles that are in apparent equilibrium within populations. For example, in European populations, the most common recessive disease is cystic fibrosis, a disorder of the chloride-secreting channel in epithelia such as the lung associated with excessively viscous secretions and subsequent wheezing and infections; a carrier frequency of one in 25 has been seen in some populations Massie et al.

It has been suggested this frequency could not persist unless there was an advantage to being a heterozygote. Possible past selective pressures include typhoid, cholera and other diarrheal diseases, or perhaps tuberculosis, but no firm data exist. A recent study analyzing the genome in two human populations was able to identify genes associated with various functions, such as immunity and keratin production, that strongly demonstrated long-term balancing selection Andres et al.

Balancing selection has also been used to explain differences between allelic forms that confer different behaviors. For example, there are alternate alleles of the promoter for the vasopressin receptor that is associated with pair bonding, with one form being more common in individuals who have less stable relationships Walum et al. While at the moment such observations are speculative and premature, as human genomic information becomes more widely incorporated into the understanding of human biology and behavior, such inferences and associations will become more frequent; they raise ethical issues that will need to be confronted.

There are many examples of founder effects and population effects affecting disease distribution. For example, blood group distribution in American-Indians is dominated by the O blood type, possibly reflecting a founder effect when humans crossed the Bering strait Halverson and Bolnick The contemporary Finnish population also descended from a founder population that underwent a tight bottleneck during migration northwards across the Gulf of Finland. It is a highly homogeneous population that displays a distinct pattern of disease compared to the rest of Europe, such as being prone to multiple rare genetic diseases but also being much less likely to develop some other diseases like cystic fibrosis Peltonen et al.

A similar situation is seen in the French Canadians, whose ancestors underwent a series of regional founder effects, leading to a characteristic geographical distribution of genetic diseases Laberge et al. There are clusters of individuals with rare diseases of genetic origin found in different locales: for example, Huntington's disease has a large Venezuelan cluster, while Laron dwarfism, caused by a mutation in the growth hormone receptor, is largely clustered in southern Ecuador.

The distribution of leprosy strains maps to human migration Monot et al. The mutation results in a defective chemokine receptor, and its high frequency in Europeans appears to have been attributed to selective pressure caused by infectious disease Duncan et al. While this mutation has been well established to confer a high level of resistance to infection by the human immunodeficiency virus, it also increases the risk of succumbing to encephalitogenic West Nile virus infections Glass et al. Many of the issues in evolutionary medicine are shared by other domains of contemporary evolutionary studies.

Measures of rapid environmental change and epigenetics need to be integrated alongside traditional measures of gene—environment interactions. Natural physical? Given the centrality of the individual's life course to evolutionary medicine, the roles of parental effects, epigenetic inheritance, and epigenetic determination of disease risk must be paramount in the research agenda. The combination of genetic and epigenetic information in relation to disease risk should allow a broader range of evolutionary hypotheses to be tested, which will in turn have implications for intervention and public health.

For example, despite extensive investment in genome-wide association studies, the size of genetic contributions to common diseases has been small Manolio et al. If the missing familial factors are indeed epigenetic rather than genetic, this may well shift the point of focus of intervention. However, much of this research agenda will require considerably closer integration with other areas of contemporary evolutionary studies than has been achieved to date. Equally importantly, evolutionary medicine needs better integration with other branches of medicine.

The current problematic status of evolutionary medicine within the pool of medical teaching and research disciplines comes from its quite distinct perspective, one which emphasizes ultimate rather than proximate explanations. Yet this perspective, as a result, provides the physician with a more comprehensive understanding of the patient as well as a greater understanding of human ecology, human variation, and life history.

It will infuse a different world view and way of thinking into medicine and public health Childs et al. Evolutionary medicine shifts the emphasis from dichotomous consideration of health and disease to a more contextual consideration. Ultimately, a new synthesis will be needed in which evolutionary biologists focused on contemporary evolution develop academic programmes jointly with scientists interested in medicine. The extraordinary potential of human medicine to determine the phenotype, genotype, and epigenotype of individuals allows a dissection of the life course in a way that may not be possible in other species.

In doing so, studies in human biology have much to offer to our understanding of contemporary evolution. We gratefully acknowledge Professor Carl Bergstrom for invaluable discussions and for comments on the manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Evol Appl v. Evol Appl. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

Peter D. Received Sep 7; Accepted Sep This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract An appreciation of the fundamental principles of evolutionary biology provides new insights into major diseases and enables an integrated understanding of human biology and medicine.

Keywords: contemporary evolution, developmental plasticity, epigenetics, evolutionary medicine, life history, mismatch, selection, trade-off. Basic principles of evolutionary medicine While medical practitioners and public health specialists are familiar with the proximate causes of disease, that is, the physiological basis of how they develop, an understanding of the general principles of evolutionary medicine would assist in gaining a fuller understanding and appreciation of why human diseases arise—that is, the ultimate causes.

A systematic approach to evolutionary medicine Nesse, together with Williams Nesse and Williams , and later Stephen Stearns Nesse and Stearns , has posed the primary question: why has selection and related processes left the human body vulnerable to disease? Table 1 Pathways that mediate the influence of evolutionary processes on disease vulnerability. Open in a separate window. Mismatch Increased disease risk can emerge, because the individual has been exposed to an environment that is beyond their evolved capacity to adapt, is entirely novel or that poses a challenge.

Life history factors This category combines several related evolutionary concepts that account for how the evolved human life course strategy and changed way of living have led to increased susceptibility to disease. Excessive defence mechanisms Many symptoms can be explained as demonstrations of evolved defence processes that have become inappropriate or excessive, and thus potentially harmful to the individual. Co-evolutionary considerations and the evolutionary arms race Humans live in symbiotic relationships with a large population of bacteria, particularly in their gastrointestinal tract.

Evolutionary constraint and history Many features of human anatomy associated with potential pathology represent the consequences of our evolutionary history.

Causes and Consequences of Human Migration

Sexual selection and its consequences Many anatomical features of humans, such as the loss of most of their body hair, may have their origin in sexual selection. Balancing selection In population genetics, the examples of sickle cell anemia, the thalassemias, and glucosephosphate dehydrogenase deficiency have all been explained in terms of the heterozygote advantage providing resistance against malaria, whereas the homozygous form is associated with more severe disease Luzzatto Demographic history There are many examples of founder effects and population effects affecting disease distribution.

The challenges and opportunities ahead Many of the issues in evolutionary medicine are shared by other domains of contemporary evolutionary studies. Acknowledgments We gratefully acknowledge Professor Carl Bergstrom for invaluable discussions and for comments on the manuscript. Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians. Constructing genomic maps of positive selection in humans: where do we go from here? Genome Research.

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