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Cultural diversification also drives human evolution

Date:
December 22, 2011
Source:
Universidad de Barcelona
Summary:
Changes in social structure and cultural practices can also contribute to human evolution, according to a new study.

Father and son in the wai’a ceremony at the Xavánte village of Etéñitepa.
Credit: Francisco M. Salzano

Changes in social structure and cultural practices can also contribute to human evolution, according to a study that has recently been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), contributed to by the lecturer Mireia Esparza and assistant Neus Martínez-Abadías, from the Anthropology Unit of the UB's Department of Animal Biology.

The study, coordinated by the expert Rolando González-José from the Patagonian National Research Center (CENPAT-CONICET, Argentina), examines physical, genetic, geographical and climatic patterns affecting over 1,200 people from the Baniwa, Ticuna, Yanomami, Kaingang, Xavánte and Kayapó indigenous groups of the Brazilian Amazon and Central Plateau.

According to the experts behind the study, one of the most interesting results is the rapid rate of morphological change in the Xavánte, which is up to 3.8 times faster than in the other groups studied. The changes observed in the Xavánte -- who have larger heads, narrower faces and broader noses -- follow an integration pattern of human skull shape recently described in the literature. "This study demonstrates that when selection acts in the same direction as integration patterns, evolution is favoured," explain the researchers Mireia Esparza and Neus Martínez-Abadías, who co-authored another recent study on morphometric patterns and the evolutionary potential of the human skull ( see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111220102244.htm).

The study suggests that this divergence is also independent of the Xavánte's geographical separation from other population groups and differences in climate. According to the team of experts, the combination of cultural isolation and sexual selection could be the driving force behind the changes observed. To conclude their study, the authors hypothesize that gene-culture co-evolution could in fact be the dominant model throughout the history of the human evolutionary lineage.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universidad de Barcelona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Hunemeier, J. Gomez-Valdes, M. Ballesteros-Romero, S. de Azevedo, N. Martinez-Abadias, M. Esparza, T. Sjovold, S. L. Bonatto, F. M. Salzano, M. C. Bortolini, R. Gonzalez-Jose. Cultural diversification promotes rapid phenotypic evolution in Xavante Indians. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1118967109

Cite This Page:

Universidad de Barcelona. "Cultural diversification also drives human evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111222161213.htm>.
Universidad de Barcelona. (2011, December 22). Cultural diversification also drives human evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111222161213.htm
Universidad de Barcelona. "Cultural diversification also drives human evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111222161213.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

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