Has human skin pigmentation adaptation and evolution ceased?

Has human skin pigmentation adaptation and evolution ceased?

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Before asking this question read

  • Why human skin colour disprove natural selection?

  • Does darker skin color make it easier to live under sun?

though neither posed the same question or provide the answer to the present question.

In Modern Human Diversity - Skin Color published by The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History the document in pertinent part states

As early humans moved into hot, open environments in search of food and water, one big challenge was keeping cool. The adaptation that was favored involved an increase in the number of sweat glands on the skin while at the same time reducing the amount of body hair. With less hair, perspiration could evaporate more easily and cool the body more efficiently. But this less-hairy skin was a problem because it was exposed to a very strong sun, especially in lands near the equator. Since strong sun exposure damages the body, the solution was to evolve skin that was permanently dark so as to protect against the sun's more damaging rays.

The darker skin of peoples who lived closer to the equator was important in preventing folate deficiency. Measures of skin reflectance, a way to quantify skin color by measuring the amount of light it reflects, in people around the world support this idea. While UV rays can cause skin cancer, because skin cancer usually affects people after they have had children, it likely had little effect on the evolution of skin color because evolution favors changes that improve reproductive success.

There is also a third factor which affects skin color: coastal peoples who eat diets rich in seafood enjoy this alternate source of vitamin D. That means that some Arctic peoples, such as native peoples of Alaska and Canada, can afford to remain dark-skinned even in low UV areas. In the summer they get high levels of UV rays reflected from the surface of snow and ice, and their dark skin protects them from this reflected light.

Cases: Lighter skinned populations who migrated to tropical regions (for example, Mennonites in Belize, Boers in South Africa, Belgians in Congo (DRC)) and darker skinned populations which migrated to non-tropical regions (for example Africans in Britain, Africans in the northern U.S. States and Alaska, and Africans in Canada), where the diets of the populations take on the diets which in part led to the specific pigmentation, and the sun applies the same amount of light (UV; other spectrums) to the population as the population where darker or lighter skin adapted, or evolved.

Given the parameters provided, a lay person might conclude that they should be able to migrate to a specific tropic or non-tropic region of the world, take on the diet which led to the melanin production and skin pigmentation which the article states influences adaption or evolution, and over N fixed generations, or an unknown period of time, though eventually, their skin pigmentation will adapt or evolve to the population planners' desired pigmentation; that melanin production and skin pigmentation is not fixed, that evolution and adaptation as to skin pigmentation is continuously ongoing in the human population on Earth circa 2019 CE - and the claim is capable of being reproduced, observed and objectively measured using the scientific method.

Have any scientific studies been performed which substantiates or refutes by observable measurement the theory or claim that environment and diet have an effect on melanin production and skin pigmentation within the scope of any timescale ("One generation, two generations, ten generations, 10-20 generations")?

Adaptation of human skin color in various populations

Lian Deng Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Key Laboratory of Computational Biology, Max Planck Independent Research Group on Population Genomics, CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology (PICB), Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS Shuhua Xu Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Key Laboratory of Computational Biology, Max Planck Independent Research Group on Population Genomics, CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology (PICB), Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS


Skin color is one of the most conspicuous ways in which humans vary and has been widely used to define human races. Here we present new evidence indicating that variations in skin color are adaptive, and are related to the regulation of ultraviolet (UV) radiation penetration in the integument and its direct and indirect effects on fitness. Using remotely sensed data on UV radiation levels, hypotheses concerning the distribution of the skin colors of indigenous peoples relative to UV levels were tested quantitatively in this study for the first time.

The major results of this study are: (1) skin reflectance is strongly correlated with absolute latitude and UV radiation levels. The highest correlation between skin reflectance and UV levels was observed at 545 nm, near the absorption maximum for oxyhemoglobin, suggesting that the main role of melanin pigmentation in humans is regulation of the effects of UV radiation on the contents of cutaneous blood vessels located in the dermis. (2) Predicted skin reflectances deviated little from observed values. (3) In all populations for which skin reflectance data were available for males and females, females were found to be lighter skinned than males. (4) The clinal gradation of skin coloration observed among indigenous peoples is correlated with UV radiation levels and represents a compromise solution to the conflicting physiological requirements of photoprotection and vitamin D synthesis.

The earliest members of the hominid lineage probably had a mostly unpigmented or lightly pigmented integument covered with dark black hair, similar to that of the modern chimpanzee. The evolution of a naked, darkly pigmented integument occurred early in the evolution of the genus Homo. A dark epidermis protected sweat glands from UV-induced injury, thus insuring the integrity of somatic thermoregulation. Of greater significance to individual reproductive success was that highly melanized skin protected against UV-induced photolysis of folate (Branda & Eaton, 1978, Science201, 625–626 Jablonski, 1992, Proc. Australas. Soc. Hum. Biol.5, 455–462, 1999, Med. Hypotheses52, 581–582), a metabolite essential for normal development of the embryonic neural tube (Bower & Stanley, 1989, The Medical Journal of Australia150, 613–619 Medical Research Council Vitamin Research Group, 1991, The Lancet338, 31–37) and spermatogenesis (Cosentino et al., 1990, Proc. Natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.87, 1431–1435 Mathur et al., 1977, Fertility Sterility28, 1356–1360).

As hominids migrated outside of the tropics, varying degrees of depigmentation evolved in order to permit UVB-induced synthesis of previtamin D3. The lighter color of female skin may be required to permit synthesis of the relatively higher amounts of vitamin D3necessary during pregnancy and lactation.

Skin coloration in humans is adaptive and labile. Skin pigmentation levels have changed more than once in human evolution. Because of this, skin coloration is of no value in determining phylogenetic relationships among modern human groups.


Overall, human skin color is a highly variable and complex trait as a consequence of strong selection pressure and is controlled by multiple genetic loci (summarized in Table 1). Skin color adaptation is a complex process because different populations have shared and independent genetic mechanisms involving a large number of genes with different effect advantages on the phenotype. Skin color adaptation is also a long evolutionary process influenced by various historical, even pre-historical, population genetic events. Current studies provide comprehensive insights into the natural selection process and mechanisms of human skin color variation. A richer resource of high-coverage whole-genome sequences and phenotype data may provide opportunities to further speculate an accurate model of genetic architecture and gene-environment effects, and advance our understanding of skin pigmentation in certain minor ethnic groups, such as hunter-gatherers and highlanders. We believe that these studies may greatly enrich our knowledge of human evolution history and elucidate the genetic basis of complex traits in humans.


We thank S. R. Granter, M. E. Bigby, H. A. Haynes, A. B. Kimball, J. Rees, A. J. Sober, R. Stern and H. Tsao for useful comments and discussions. This work was supported by grants from the NIH and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (J.Y.L.). D.E.F. is Distinguished Clinical Investigator of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Jan and Charles Nirenberg Fellow in Pediatric Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


The visualizations of UVB and UVA levels and variation presented here permit elaboration of the nature of the selective mechanisms involved in the evolution of variation in skin pigmentation and, notably, the evolution of tanning phenotypes in relation to seasonably variable levels of UVR. Skin pigmentation is probably one of the best examples of natural selection acting on a human trait. It is the product of two opposing clines, one emphasizing dark constitutive pigmentation and photoprotection against high loads of UVA and UVB near the equator (Figs. 1 and 2), and the other favoring light constitutive pigmentation to promote seasonal, UVB-induced photosynthesis of vitamin D3 near the poles (7, 49). Intermediate latitudes with their seasonally high loads of UVB favored the evolution of people with moderate constitutive pigmentation who are capable of tanning.

The time course for the elaboration of pigmentation within a human lifetime reflects its importance in human reproduction and, thus, in evolution. Human infants are born more lightly pigmented than adults and develop their genetically determined maximum level of constitutive pigmentation only in their late teens or early 20s (77) when they enter their period of peak fertility. The potential for development of facultative pigmentation also peaks during early adulthood. In middle and old age, constitutive pigmentation fades and the potential for tanning decreases due to a decline in the number of active melanocytes (78).

Skin pigmentation provides an attractive model system for understanding and teaching evolution and should be promoted as such. It is readily visible, and the basic mechanisms contributing to it are easily understood. Skin pigmentation fulfills the criteria for a successful evolutionary model. First, it was produced by an imperfect replicator. Pigmentation is determined by germ-line DNA, which is subject to mutation. Pigmentation is also subject to heritable variations in epigenetic transmission due to differential methylation of DNA and to extracorporeal memetic patterns of inheritance because of different cultural traditions. Second, there must be selection through differential survival of phenotypes. For skin pigmentation, this implies differential survival and reproduction rates of different phenotypes under different solar regimes. Lastly, natural selection must occur uniquely in time and space to give rise to isolating mechanisms. In the evolution of skin pigmentation, isolation was produced by distance and dispersion rather than sexual selection or other mechanisms. Thus, human skin is a perfect model to demonstrate the mechanism of evolution by natural selection in each of its required parts.

Considerable antagonism toward evolution is based on the common understanding of the word “theory” in its colloquial sense as a hunch. That the separate parts of the theory can be shown to apply fully to an easily understandable human trait should help further the acceptance of the “theory of evolution.” Darwin's theory of natural selection can be likened to Newton's attempt to explain the movement of the planets in his “On the Motion of Bodies in an Orbit.” Newton's effort gave rise to the Principia Mathematica and eventually to the Laws of Motion.

In human evolution, changes in skin's barrier set Northern Europeans apart

The popular idea that Northern Europeans developed light skin to absorb more UV light so they could make more vitamin D – vital for healthy bones and immune function – is questioned by UC San Francisco researchers in a new study published online in the journal Evolutionary Biology.

Ramping up the skin's capacity to capture UV light to make vitamin D is indeed important, according to a team led by Peter Elias, MD, a UCSF professor of dermatology. However, Elias and colleagues concluded in their study that changes in the skin's function as a barrier to the elements made a greater contribution than alterations in skin pigment in the ability of Northern Europeans to make vitamin D.

Elias' team concluded that genetic mutations compromising the skin's ability to serve as a barrier allowed fair-skinned Northern Europeans to populate latitudes where too little ultraviolet B (UVB) light for vitamin D production penetrates the atmosphere.

Among scientists studying human evolution, it has been almost universally assumed that the need to make more vitamin D at Northern latitudes drove genetic mutations that reduce production of the pigment melanin, the main determinant of skin tone, according to Elias.

"At the higher latitudes of Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltic States, as well as Northern Germany and France, very little UVB light reaches the Earth, and it's the key wavelength required by the skin for vitamin D generation," Elias said.

"While is seems logical that the loss of the pigment melanin would serve as a compensatory mechanism, allowing for more irradiation of the skin surface and therefore more vitamin D production, this hypothesis is flawed for many reasons," he continued. "For example, recent studies show that dark-skinned humans make vitamin D after sun exposure as efficiently as lightly-pigmented humans, and osteoporosis – which can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency – is less common, rather than more common, in darkly-pigmented humans."

Furthermore, evidence for a south to north gradient in the prevalence of melanin mutations is weaker than for this alternative explanation explored by Elias and colleagues.

In earlier research, Elias began studying the role of skin as a barrier to water loss. He recently has focused on a specific skin-barrier protein called filaggrin, which is broken down into a molecule called urocanic acid – the most potent absorber of UVB light in the skin, according to Elias. "It's certainly more important than melanin in lightly-pigmented skin," he said.

In their new study, the researchers identified a strikingly higher prevalence of inborn mutations in the filaggrin gene among Northern European populations. Up to 10 percent of normal individuals carried mutations in the filaggrin gene in these northern nations, in contrast to much lower mutation rates in southern European, Asian and African populations.

Moreover, higher filaggrin mutation rates, which result in a loss of urocanic acid, correlated with higher vitamin D levels in the blood. Latitude-dependent variations in melanin genes are not similarly associated with vitamin D levels, according to Elias. This evidence suggests that changes in the skin barrier played a role in Northern European's evolutionary adaptation to Northern latitudes, the study concluded.

Yet, there was an evolutionary tradeoff for these barrier-weakening filaggrin mutations, Elias said. Mutation bearers have a tendency for very dry skin, and are vulnerable to atopic dermatitis, asthma and food allergies. But these diseases have appeared only recently, and did not become a problem until humans began to live in densely populated urban environments, Elias said.

The Elias lab has shown that pigmented skin provides a better skin barrier, which he says was critically important for protection against dehydration and infections among ancestral humans living in sub-Saharan Africa. But the need for pigment to provide this extra protection waned as modern human populations migrated northward over the past 60,000 years or so, Elias said, while the need to absorb UVB light became greater, particularly for those humans who migrated to the far North behind retreating glaciers less than 10,000 years ago.

The data from the new study do not explain why Northern Europeans lost melanin. If the need to make more vitamin D did not drive pigment loss, what did? Elias speculates that, "Once human populations migrated northward, away from the tropical onslaught of UVB, pigment was gradually lost in service of metabolic conservation. The body will not waste precious energy and proteins to make proteins that it no longer needs."

For the Evolutionary Biology study, labeled a "synthesis paper" by the journal, Elias and co-author Jacob P. Thyssen, MD, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, mapped the mutation data and measured the correlations with blood levels of vitamin D. Labs throughout the world identified the mutations. Daniel Bikle, MD, PhD, a UCSF professor of medicine, provided expertise on vitamin D metabolism.

How Europeans evolved white skin

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—Most of us think of Europe as the ancestral home of white people. But a new study shows that pale skin, as well as other traits such as tallness and the ability to digest milk as adults, arrived in most of the continent relatively recently. The work, presented here last week at the 84th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, offers dramatic evidence of recent evolution in Europe and shows that most modern Europeans don’t look much like those of 8000 years ago.

The origins of Europeans have come into sharp focus in the past year as researchers have sequenced the genomes of ancient populations, rather than only a few individuals. By comparing key parts of the DNA across the genomes of 83 ancient individuals from archaeological sites throughout Europe, the international team of researchers reported earlier this year that Europeans today are a mix of the blending of at least three ancient populations of hunter-gatherers and farmers who moved into Europe in separate migrations over the past 8000 years. The study revealed that a massive migration of Yamnaya herders from the steppes north of the Black Sea may have brought Indo-European languages to Europe about 4500 years ago.

Now, a new study from the same team drills down further into that remarkable data to search for genes that were under strong natural selection—including traits so favorable that they spread rapidly throughout Europe in the past 8000 years. By comparing the ancient European genomes with those of recent ones from the 1000 Genomes Project, population geneticist Iain Mathieson, a postdoc in the Harvard University lab of population geneticist David Reich, found five genes associated with changes in diet and skin pigmentation that underwent strong natural selection.

First, the scientists confirmed an earlier report that the hunter-gatherers in Europe could not digest the sugars in milk 8000 years ago, according to a poster. They also noted an interesting twist: The first farmers also couldn’t digest milk. The farmers who came from the Near East about 7800 years ago and the Yamnaya pastoralists who came from the steppes 4800 years ago lacked the version of the LCT gene that allows adults to digest sugars in milk. It wasn’t until about 4300 years ago that lactose tolerance swept through Europe.

When it comes to skin color, the team found a patchwork of evolution in different places, and three separate genes that produce light skin, telling a complex story for how European’s skin evolved to be much lighter during the past 8000 years. The modern humans who came out of Africa to originally settle Europe about 40,000 years are presumed to have had dark skin, which is advantageous in sunny latitudes. And the new data confirm that about 8500 years ago, early hunter-gatherers in Spain, Luxembourg, and Hungary also had darker skin: They lacked versions of two genes—SLC24A5 and SLC45A2—that lead to depigmentation and, therefore, pale skin in Europeans today.

But in the far north—where low light levels would favor pale skin—the team found a different picture in hunter-gatherers: Seven people from the 7700-year-old Motala archaeological site in southern Sweden had both light skin gene variants, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2. They also had a third gene, HERC2/OCA2, which causes blue eyes and may also contribute to light skin and blond hair. Thus ancient hunter-gatherers of the far north were already pale and blue-eyed, but those of central and southern Europe had darker skin.

Then, the first farmers from the Near East arrived in Europe they carried both genes for light skin. As they interbred with the indigenous hunter-gatherers, one of their light-skin genes swept through Europe, so that central and southern Europeans also began to have lighter skin. The other gene variant, SLC45A2, was at low levels until about 5800 years ago when it swept up to high frequency.

The team also tracked complex traits, such as height, which are the result of the interaction of many genes. They found that selection strongly favored several gene variants for tallness in northern and central Europeans, starting 8000 years ago, with a boost coming from the Yamnaya migration, starting 4800 years ago. The Yamnaya have the greatest genetic potential for being tall of any of the populations, which is consistent with measurements of their ancient skeletons. In contrast, selection favored shorter people in Italy and Spain starting 8000 years ago, according to the paper now posted on the bioRxiv preprint server. Spaniards, in particular, shrank in stature 6000 years ago, perhaps as a result of adapting to colder temperatures and a poor diet.

Surprisingly, the team found no immune genes under intense selection, which is counter to hypotheses that diseases would have increased after the development of agriculture.

The paper doesn’t specify why these genes might have been under such strong selection. But the likely explanation for the pigmentation genes is to maximize vitamin D synthesis, said paleoanthropologist Nina Jablonski of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), University Park, as she looked at the poster’s results at the meeting. People living in northern latitudes often don’t get enough UV to synthesize vitamin D in their skin so natural selection has favored two genetic solutions to that problem—evolving pale skin that absorbs UV more efficiently or favoring lactose tolerance to be able to digest the sugars and vitamin D naturally found in milk. “What we thought was a fairly simple picture of the emergence of depigmented skin in Europe is an exciting patchwork of selection as populations disperse into northern latitudes,” Jablonski says. “This data is fun because it shows how much recent evolution has taken place.”

Anthropological geneticist George Perry, also of Penn State, notes that the work reveals how an individual’s genetic potential is shaped by their diet and adaptation to their habitat. “We’re getting a much more detailed picture now of how selection works.”

The Evolution of Human Skin and Skin Color

▪ Abstract Humans skin is the most visible aspect of the human phenotype. It is distinguished mainly by its naked appearance, greatly enhanced abilities to dissipate body heat through sweating, and the great range of genetically determined skin colors present within a single species. Many aspects of the evolution of human skin and skin color can be reconstructed using comparative anatomy, physiology, and genomics. Enhancement of thermal sweating was a key innovation in human evolution that allowed maintenance of homeostasis (including constant brain temperature) during sustained physical activity in hot environments. Dark skin evolved pari passu with the loss of body hair and was the original state for the genus Homo. Melanin pigmentation is adaptive and has been maintained by natural selection. Because of its evolutionary lability, skin color phenotype is useless as a unique marker of genetic identity. In recent prehistory, humans became adept at protecting themselves from the environment through clothing and shelter, thus reducing the scope for the action of natural selection on human skin.

Skin Color Evolution In Fish And Humans Determined By Same Genetic Machinery

When humans began to migrate out of Africa about 100,000 years ago, their skin color gradually changed to adapt to their new environments. And when the last Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, marine ancestors of ocean-dwelling stickleback fish experienced dramatic changes in skin coloring as they colonized newly formed lakes and streams. New research shows that despite the vast evolutionary gulf between humans and the three-spined stickleback fish, the two species have adopted a common genetic strategy to acquire the skin pigmentation that would help each species thrive in their new environments.

The researchers, led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator David Kingsley, published their findings in the December 14, 2007, issue of the journal Cell. Kingsley and first author Craig Miller are at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and other co-authors are from the University of Porto in Portugal, the University of British Columbia, the University of Chicago, and the Pennsylvania State University Further studies of stickleback, they say, may reveal other malleable pieces of genetic machinery both fish and humans have used for adaptation.

The stickleback has become a premier model organism for studying evolution because of its extraordinary evolutionary history, said Kingsley. "Sticklebacks have undergone one of the most recent and dramatic evolutionary radiations on earth," he said. When the last Ice Age ended, giant glaciers melted and created thousands of lakes and streams in North America, Europe, and Asia. These waters were colonized by the stickleback's marine ancestors, which subsequently adapted to life in freshwater. "This created a multitude of little evolutionary experiments, in which these isolated populations of fish adapted to the new food sources, predators, water color, and water temperature that they found in these new environments," Kingsley explained.

Among those adaptations were new colorations that helped the fish camouflage themselves, distinguish species, and attract mates in their new environments. Until now, however, scientists had not understood what genetic factors drove the changes in skin pigmentation.

Human populations have also undergone pigmentation changes as they have adapted to life in new environments. The ecological reasons for those changes may be quite different from the forces driving the evolution of pigmentation in sticklebacks, said Kingsley. As human populations migrated out of Africa into northern climates, the need for darker pigmentation necessary to protect against the intense tropical sun diminished. With skin that was more transparent to sunlight, humans were better able to produce sufficient vitamin D in their new climate.

To begin to understand the genetic basis of skin pigmentation changes in fish, Kingsley and his colleagues crossed stickleback species that had different pigmentation patterns and used genetic markers and the recently completed sequence map of the fish's genome to search for the mechanism regulating stickleback pigmentation. They searched for chromosome segments in the offspring that were always associated with inheritance of dark or light gills and skin. Through detailed mapping of one such segment, Kingsley and his colleagues found that a gene called Kitlg (short for "Kit ligand") was associated with pigmentation inheritance. Kitlg was an excellent candidate for regulating pigmentation because mutant forms of the corresponding gene in mice produce changes in fur color, said Kingsley.

The Kitlg gene is involved in a variety of biological processes, including germ cell development, pigment cell development, and hematopoiesis. Light-colored fish have regulatory mutations that reduce expression of the Kitlg gene in gills and skin, but that do not reduce the gene's function in other tissues. "By altering expression of this gene in one particular place in the body, the fish can fine tune the level of expression of that factor in some tissues but not others," said Kingsley. "That lets evolution produce a big local effect on a trait like color while preserving the other functions of the gene."

Humans also have a Kitlg gene, and Kingsley and his colleagues wondered if it played a role in regulating the pigmentation of human skin. One clue they had came from previous research by other groups that had revealed that the human Kitlg gene has undergone different changes among different human populations, suggesting that it is evolutionarily significant.

Kingsley and his colleagues tested whether the different human versions of the Kitlg gene are associated with changes in skin color. Humans with two copies of the African form of the Kitlg gene had darker skin color than people with one or two copies of the new Kitlg variant that is common in Europe and Asia.

Knowing that people had also adapted lighter skin when they migrated north, Kingsley wondered whether mutations in the same gene accounted for light pigmentation in people living in northern climes. In the north, where less sunlight reaches the ground, lighter coloring helps people absorb enough sunlight to produce vitamin D.

Kingsley and his colleagues collected DNA from people with a variety of skin colors to look for alterations in the Kit ligand gene. Sure enough, people with lighter skin had an altered form of the gene. He said this gene isn&rsquot alone in controlling a person&rsquos skin color, but it does seem to account for about 20 percent of the differences in pigmentation between people of African and northern European descent.

&ldquoIt is the same genetic mechanism between organisms that are very different from each other,&rdquo Kingsley said. This gene is known to make a protein that plays a role in maintaining the melanocyte skin cells that control pigmentation.

In terms of how evolution progresses, this gene would be a large ladle of dye that helps set the paint color apart from the original. Additional genetic changes account for the exact color of each person&rsquos skin.

"Although multiple chromosomal regions contribute to the complex trait of pigmentation in both fish and humans, we have identified one gene that plays a central role in color changes in both species," said Kingsley.

"Since fish and humans look so different, people are often surprised that common mechanisms may extend across both organisms," he said. "But there are real parallels between the evolutionary history of sticklebacks and humans. Sticklebacks migrated out of the ocean into new environments about ten thousand years ago. And they breed about once every one or two years, giving them five thousand to ten thousand generations to adapt to new environments."

Although modern humans arose in Africa, they are thought to have migrated out of Africa in the last 100,000 years. "Humans breed about once every 20 years, giving them about 5,000 generations or so to emerge from an ancestral environment and colonize and adapt to new environments around the world," Kingsley added. "So despite the difference in total years, the underlying process is actually quite similar. Whether it be fish or humans, there were small migrating populations encountering new environments and evolving significant changes in some traits in a relatively short time. And the genetic mechanisms that can produce these changes may be so constrained that evolution will tend to use the same sorts of genes in different organisms."

Kingsley and his colleagues are now exploring the genetic basis of other evolved traits in the stickleback that could find a parallel in humans. "And given the degree to which evolutionary mechanisms appear to be shared between populations and organisms, we're optimistic about finding the particular genes that underlie other recent adaptations to changing environments in both fish and humans," he said.

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

    In this short video, Penn State University anthropologist Dr. Nina Jablonski walks us through the evidence that the different shades of skin color among human populations arose as adaptations to the intensity of ultraviolet radiation in different parts of the world. Running time: 18:58 min. Produced by: HHMI BioInteractive.