Research Article/Race Reconciled: How Biological Anthropologists View Human Variation
Race and global patterns of phenotypic variation
Article first published online: 18 FEB 2009
Copyright © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Special Issue: Race Reconciled: How Biological Anthropologists View Human Variation
Volume 139, Issue 1, pages 16–22, May 2009
How to Cite
Relethford, J. H. (2009), Race and global patterns of phenotypic variation. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., 139: 16–22. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20900
- Issue published online: 1 APR 2009
- Article first published online: 18 FEB 2009
- Manuscript Revised: 17 JUN 2008
- Manuscript Received: 21 MAR 2008
- skin color;
Phenotypic traits have been used for centuries for the purpose of racial classification. Developments in quantitative population genetics have allowed global comparison of patterns of phenotypic variation with patterns of variation in classical genetic markers and DNA markers. Human skin color shows a high degree of variation among geographic regions, typical of traits that show extensive natural selection. Even given this high level of geographic differentiation, skin color variation is clinal and is not well described by discrete racial categories. Craniometric traits show a level of among-region differentiation comparable to genetic markers, with high levels of variation within populations as well as a correlation between phenotypic and geographic distance. Craniometric variation is geographically structured, allowing high levels of classification accuracy when comparing crania from different parts of the world. Nonetheless, the boundaries in global variation are not abrupt and do not fit a strict view of the race concept; the number of races and the cutoffs used to define them are arbitrary. The race concept is at best a crude first-order approximation to the geographically structured phenotypic variation in the human species. Am J Phys Anthropol 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.