Testing evolutionary hypotheses about human biological adaptation using cross-cultural comparison
Mace, R., Jordan, F., & Holden, C.
Testing evolutionary hypotheses about human biological adaptation using cross-cultural comparison. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A-Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 136
(1), 85-94. doi:10.1016/S1095-6433(03)00019-9.
Physiological data from a range of human populations living in different environments can provide valuable information for testing evolutionary hypotheses about human adaptation. By taking into account the effects of population history, phylogenetic comparative methods can help us determine whether variation results from selection due to particular environmental variables. These selective forces could even be due to cultural traits-which means that gene-culture co-evolution may be occurring. In this paper, we outline two examples of the use of these approaches to test adaptive hypotheses that explain global variation in two physiological traits: the first is lactose digestion capacity in adults, and the second is population sex-ratio at birth. We show that lower than average sex ratio at birth is associated with high fertility, and argue that global variation in sex ratio at birth has evolved as a response to the high physiological costs of producing boys in high fertility populations.