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Brief Communication: Quantitative- and molecular-genetic differentiation in humans and chimpanzees: Implications for the evolutionary processes underlying cranial diversification


  • Timothy D. Weaver

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, CA
    • Correspondence to: Timothy D. Weaver, Department of Anthropology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA. E-mail:

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Estimates of the amount of genetic differentiation in humans among major geographic regions (e.g., Eastern Asia vs. Europe) from quantitative-genetic analyses of cranial measurements closely match those from classical- and molecular-genetic markers. Typically, among-region differences account for ∼10% of the total variation. This correspondence is generally interpreted as evidence for the importance of neutral evolutionary processes (e.g., genetic drift) in generating among-region differences in human cranial form, but it was initially surprising because human cranial diversity was frequently assumed to show a strong signature of natural selection. Is the human degree of similarity of cranial and DNA-sequence estimates of among-region genetic differentiation unusual? How do comparisons with other taxa illuminate the evolutionary processes underlying cranial diversification? Chimpanzees provide a useful starting point for placing the human results in a broader comparative context, because common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) are the extant species most closely related to humans. To address these questions, I used 27 cranial measurements collected on a sample of 861 humans and 263 chimpanzees to estimate the amount of genetic differentiation between pairs of groups (between regions for humans and between species or subspecies for chimpanzees). Consistent with previous results, the human cranial estimates are quite similar to published DNA-sequence estimates. In contrast, the chimpanzee cranial estimates are much smaller than published DNA-sequence estimates. It appears that cranial differentiation has been limited in chimpanzees relative to humans. Am J Phys Anthropol 154:615–620, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.