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Extreme climate, rather than population history, explains mid-facial morphology of northern asians

Authors

  • Andrej Evteev,

    Corresponding author
    1. Anuchin Research Institute and Museum of Anthropology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
    • Correspondence to: Andrej Evteev, Anuchin Research Institute and Museum of Anthropology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 11 Mokhovaya St., Moscow, 125009, Russia. E-mail: evteandr@gmail.com

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  • Andrea L. Cardini,

    1. Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Geologiche, Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy
    2. Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences, Hull York Medical School, University of York, Heslington, UK
    3. Centre for Forensic Science, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
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  • Irina Morozova,

    1. Human Genetics Laboratory, Vavilov Institute of General Genetics Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
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  • Paul O'Higgins

    1. Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences, Hull York Medical School, University of York, Heslington, UK
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ABSTRACT

Previous studies have examined mid-facial cold adaptation among either widely dispersed and genetically very diverse groups of humans isolated for tens of thousands of years, or among very closely related groups spread over climatically different regions. Here we present a study of one East Asian and seven North Asian populations in which we examine the evidence for convergent adaptations of the mid-face to a very cold climate. Our findings indicate that mid-facial morphology is strongly associated with climatic variables that contrast the temperate climate of East Asians and the very cold and dry climate of North Asians. This is also the case when either maxillary or nasal cavity measurements are considered alone. The association remains significant when mtDNA distances among populations are taken into account. The morphological contrasts between populations are consistent with physiological predictions and prior studies of mid-facial cold adaptation in more temperate regions, but among North Asians there appear to be some previously undescribed morphological features that might be considered as adaptive to extreme cold. To investigate this further, analyses of the seven North Asian populations alone suggest that mid-facial morphology remains strongly associated with climate, particularly winter precipitation, contrasting coastal Arctic and continental climates. However, the residual covariation among North Asian mid-facial morphology and climate when genetic distances are considered, is not significant. These findings point to modern adaptations to extreme climate that might be relevant to our understanding of the mid-facial morphology of fossil hominins that lived during glaciations. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:449–462, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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