Genetic contributions to variation in human stature in prehistoric Europe
The relative contributions of genetics and environment to temporal and geographic variation in human height remain largely unknown. Ancient DNA has identified changes in genetic ancestry over time, but it is not clear whether those changes in ancestry are associated with changes in height. Here, we directly test whether changes over the past 38,000 years in European height predicted using DNA from 1071 ancient individuals are consistent with changes observed in 1159 skeletal remains from comparable populations. We show that the observed decrease in height between the Early Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic is qualitatively predicted by genetics. Similarly, both skeletal and genetic height remained constant between the Mesolithic and Neolithic and increased between the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Sitting height changes much less than standing height–consistent with genetic predictions–although genetics predicts a small Bronze Age increase that is not observed in skeletal remains. Geographic variation in stature is also qualitatively consistent with genetic predictions, particularly with respect to latitude. Finally, we hypothesize that an observed decrease in genetic heel bone mineral density in the Neolithic reflects adaptation to the decreased mobility indicated by decreased femoral bending strength. This study provides a model for interpreting phenotypic changes predicted from ancient DNA and demonstrates how they can be combined with phenotypic measurements to understand the relative contribution of genetic and developmentally plastic responses to environmental change. Significance Measurements of prehistoric human skeletal remains provide a record of changes in height and other anthropometric traits, over time. Often, these changes are interpreted in terms of plastic developmental response to shifts in diet, climate or other environmental factors. These changes can also be genetic in origin but, until recently, it has been impossible to separate the effects of genetics and environment. Here we use ancient DNA to directly estimate genetic changes in phenotypes and to identify changes driven not by genetics, but by environment. We show that changes over the past 35,000 years are largely predicted by genetics, but also identify specific shifts that are more likely to be environmentally driven.
- Downloaded 716 times
- Download rankings, all-time:
- Site-wide: 15,612 out of 77,075
- In evolutionary biology: 1,026 out of 4,914
- Year to date:
- Site-wide: 37,358 out of 77,075
- Since beginning of last month:
- Site-wide: 33,591 out of 77,075
Downloads over time
Distribution of downloads per paper, site-wide
- 18 Dec 2019: We're pleased to announce PanLingua, a new tool that enables you to search for machine-translated bioRxiv preprints using more than 100 different languages.
- 21 May 2019: PLOS Biology has published a community page about Rxivist.org and its design.
- 10 May 2019: The paper analyzing the Rxivist dataset has been published at eLife.
- 1 Mar 2019: We now have summary statistics about bioRxiv downloads and submissions.
- 8 Feb 2019: Data from Altmetric is now available on the Rxivist details page for every preprint. Look for the "donut" under the download metrics.
- 30 Jan 2019: preLights has featured the Rxivist preprint and written about our findings.
- 22 Jan 2019: Nature just published an article about Rxivist and our data.
- 13 Jan 2019: The Rxivist preprint is live!