Craniometric variation, genetic theory, and modern human origins


  • Dr. John H. Relethford,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, State University of New York College at Oneonta, Oneonta, New York 13820
    • Department of Anthropology, SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY 13820
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  • Henry C. Harpending

    1. Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802
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Recent controversies surrounding models of modern human origins have focused on among-group variation, particularly the reconstruction of phylogenetic trees from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and, the dating of population divergence. Problems in tree estimation have been seen as weakening the case for a replacement model and favoring a multiregional evolution model. There has been less discussion of patterns of within-group variation, although the mtDNA evidence has consistently shown the greatest diversity within African populations. Problems of interpretation abound given the numerous factors that can influence within-group variation, including the possibility of earlier divergence, differences in population size, patterns of population expansion, and variation in migration rates. We present a model of within-group phenotypic variation and apply it to a large set of craniometric data representing major Old World geographic regions (57 measurements for 1,159 cases in four regions: Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australasia, and the Far East). The model predicts a linear relationship between variation within populations (the average within-group variance) and variation between populations (the genetic distance of populations to pooled phenotypic means). On a global level this relationship should hold if the long-term effective population sizes of each region are correctly specified. Other potential effects on withingroup variation are accounted for by the model. Comparison of observed and expected variances under the assumption of equal effective sizes for four regions indicates significantly greater within-group variation in Africa and significantly less within-group variation in Europe. These results suggest that the long-term effective population size was greatest in Africa. Closer examination of the model suggests that the long-term African effective size was roughly three times that of any other geographic region. Using these estimates of relative population size, we present a method for analyzing ancient population structure, which provides estimates of ancient migration. This method allows us to reconstruct migration history between geographic regions after adjustment for the effect of genetic drift on interpopulational distances. Our results show a clear isolation of Africa from other regions. We then present a method that allows direct estimation of the ancient migration matrix, thus providing us with information on the actual extent of interregional migration. These methods also provide estimates of time frames necessary to reach genetic equilibrium. The ultimate goal is extracting as much information from present-day patterns of human variation relevannt to issues of human origins. Our results are in agreement with mismatch distribution analysis of mtDNA, and they support a “weak Garden o Eden” model. In this model, modern-day variation can be explained by divergence from an initial source (perhaps Africa) into a number o small isolated populations, followed by later population expansion throughout our species. The major populationn expansions of Homo sapiens during and after the late Pleistocene have had the effect of “freezing” ancient patterns of population structure. While this is not the only possible scenario, we do note the close agreement with ecent analyses of mtDNA mismatch distibutions. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.