Human Races: A Genetic and Evolutionary Perspective

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Abstract

Race is generally used as a synonym for subspecies, which traditionally is a geographically circumscribed, genetically differentiated population. Sometimes traits show independent patterns of geographical variation such that some combination will distinguish most populations from all others. To avoid making "race" the equivalent of a local population, minimal thresholds of differentiation are imposed. Human "races" are below the thresholds used in other species, so valid traditional subspecies do not exist in humans. A "subspecies" can also be defined as a distinct evolutionary lineage within a species. Genetic surveys and the analyses of DNA haplotype trees show that human "races" are not distinct lineages, and that this is not due to recent admixture; human "races" are not and never were "pure." Instead, human evolution has been and is characterized by many locally differentiated populations coexisting at any given time, but with sufficient genetic contact to make all of humanity a single lineage sharing a common evolutionary fate.

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