Apportionment of global human genetic diversity based on craniometrics and skin color



A number of analyses of classical genetic markers and DNA polymorphisms have shown that the majority of human genetic diversity exists within local populations (≈85%), with much less among local populations (≈5%) or between major geographic regions or “races” (≈10%). Previous analysis of craniometric variation (Relethford [1994] Am J Phys Anthropol 95:53–62) found that between 11–14% of global diversity exists among geographic regions, with the remaining diversity existing within regions. The methods used in this earlier paper are extended to a hierarchical partitioning of genetic diversity in quantitative traits, allowing for assessment of diversity among regions, among local populations within regions, and within local populations. These methods are applied to global data on craniometric variation (57 traits) and skin color. Multivariate analysis of craniometric variation shows results similar to those obtained from genetic markers and DNA polymorphisms: roughly 13% of the total diversity is among regions, 6% among local populations within regions, and 81% within local populations. This distribution is concordant with neutral genetic markers. Skin color shows the opposite pattern, with 88% of total variation among regions, 3% among local populations within regions, and 9% within local populations, a pattern shaped by natural selection. The apportionment of genetic diversity in skin color is atypical, and cannot be used for purposes of classification. If racial groups are based on skin color, it appears unlikely that other genetic and quantitative traits will show the same patterns of variation. Am J Phys Anthropol 118:393–398, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.