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Chapter 15. Modern Human Biology: Patterns of Variation. Historical Views of Human Variation. Biological determinism - cultural and biological variations are inherited in the same way.

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Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Modern Human Biology:

Patterns of Variation

Historical views of human variation
Historical Views of Human Variation

  • Biological determinism - cultural and biological variations are inherited in the same way.

  • Eugenics - "race improvement" through forced sterilization of members of some groups and encouraged reproduction among others.

Traditional concept of race
Traditional Concept of Race

  • Since the 1960s, race has been used to refer to culturally defined groups.

  • Race is used as a biological term, but has enormous social significance.

  • In any racial group, there will be individuals who fall into the normal range of variation for another group for one or several characteristics.

Examples of phenotypic variation among africans
Examples of Phenotypic Variation Among Africans

  • (a) San (South African), (b) West African (Bantu), (c) Ethiopian, (d) Ituri (Central African), (e) North African (Tunisia)


  • Based on false belief that intellect and cultural factors are inherited with physical characteristics.

  • Uses culturally defined variables to typify all members of particular populations.

  • Assumes that one's own group is superior.


  • Genetic and environmental factors contribute to intelligence.

  • Innate differences in abilities reflect variation within populations, not differences between groups.

Human polymorphisms
Human Polymorphisms

  • Characteristics with different phenotypic expressions are called polymorphisms.

  • Geneticists use polymorphisms as a tool to understand evolutionary processes in modern populations.

Clinal distributions
Clinal Distributions

  • A cline is a gradual change in the frequency of a trait or allele in populations dispersed over geographical space.

    • Example: The distribution of the A and B alleles in the Old World.

  • Distribution of the B allele in the indigenous populations of the world.

Patterns of polymorphic variation
Patterns of Polymorphic Variation

  • Analyzing single traits can be confusing

  • Lewontin’s study

People in Sardinia, a large island off the west coast of Italy, differ in allele frequencies at some loci from other European populations.

Polymorphisms at the dna level
Polymorphisms at the DNA Level Study (1972)

  • Molecular biologists have recently uncovered DNA variability in various regions of the genome.

  • Scattered through the human genome are microsatellites,sites where DNA segments are repeated.

  • Each person has a unique arrangement that defines their distinctive “DNA fingerprint.”

Population genetics
Population Genetics Study (1972)

  • The study of the frequency of alleles, genotypes, and phenotypes in populations from a microevolutionary perspective.

  • A gene pool is the total complement of genes shared by the reproductive members of a population.

Hardy weinberg equilibrium
Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium Study (1972)

  • Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium

    • The mathematical relationship expressing the predicted distribution of alleles in populations; the central theorem of population genetics.

    • Establishes a set of conditions in a population where no evolution occurs.

    • The hypothetical conditions that such a population would be assumed to meet are as follows:

      • The population is infinitely large to eliminate the possibility of random genetic drift or changes in allele frequencies due to chance.

      • There’s no mutation.

      • There’s no gene flow.

      • Natural selection isn’t operating.

      • Mating is random.

Evolution in action modern human populations
Evolution in Study (1972)Action:Modern Human Populations

  • Nonrandom mating

  • Endogamy

    • Mating with individuals from the same group.

  • Exogamy

    • Mating pattern whereby individuals obtain mates from groups other than their own.

  • Interbreeding

Human biocultural evolution
Human Biocultural Evolution Study (1972)

  • Humans live in cultural environments that are continually modified by their activities.

  • Evolutionary processes can be understood only within this cultural context.

    • HbS allele

Human biocultural evolution1
Human Biocultural Evolution Study (1972)

  • Example: Lactose intolerance

    • In all human populations, infants and young children are able to digest milk.

    • In most mammals, including humans, the gene that codes for lactase production “switches off” in adolescence.

    • The geographical distribution of lactose tolerance is related to a history of cultural dependence on fresh milk products.

Frequencies of lactose intolerance
Frequencies of Study (1972)Lactose Intolerance

Frequencies of lactose intolerance1
Frequencies of Study (1972)Lactose Intolerance