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Keywords:

  • ecogeography;
  • canalization;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • Allen's rule;
  • migration

Abstract

Variation in limb proportions between prehistoric Jomon and Yayoi people of Japan are explored by this study. Jomon people were the descendents of Pleistocene nomads who migrated to the Japanese Islands around 30,000 yBP. Phenotypic and genotypic evidence indicates that Yayoi people were recent migrants to Japan from continental Northeast Asia who likely interbred with Jomon foragers. Limb proportions of Jomon and Yayoi people were compared using RMA regression and “Quick-Test” calculations to investigate relative variability between these two groups. Cluster and principal components analyses were performed on size-standardized limb lengths and used to compare Jomon and Yayoi people with other groups from various climatic zones. Elongated distal relative to proximal limb lengths were observed among Jomon compared to Yayoi people. Jomon limb proportions were similar to human groups from temperate/tropical climates at lower latitudes, while Yayoi limb proportions more closely resemble groups from colder climates at higher latitudes. Limb proportional similarities with groups from warmer environments among Jomon foragers likely reflect morphological changes following Pleistocene colonization of the Japanese Islands. Cold-derived limb proportions among the Yayoi people likely indicate retention of these traits following comparatively recent migrations to the Japanese Islands. Changes in limb proportions experienced by Jomon foragers and retention of cold-derived limb proportions among Yayoi people conform to previous findings that report changes in these proportions following long-standing evolution in a specific environment. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.