Genetic Population Structure Accounts for Contemporary Ecogeographic Patterns in Tropic and Subtropic-Dwelling Humans
Contemporary human populations conform to ecogeographic predictions that animals will become more compact in cooler climates and less compact in warmer ones. However, it remains unclear to what extent this pattern reflects plastic responses to current environments or genetic differences among populations. Analyzing anthropometric surveys of 232,684 children and adults from across 80 ethnolinguistic groups in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Americas, we confirm that body surface-to-volume correlates with contemporary temperature at magnitudes found in more latitudinally diverse samples (Adj. R[superscript 2] = 0.14-0.28). However, far more variation in body surface-to-volume is attributable to genetic population structure (Adj. R[superscript 2] = 0.50-0.74). Moreover, genetic population structure accounts for nearly all of the observed relationship between contemporary temperature and body surface-to-volume among children and adults. Indeed, after controlling for population structure, contemporary temperature accounts for no more than 4% of the variance in body form in these groups. This effect of genetic affinity on body form is also independent of other ecological variables, such as dominant mode of subsistence and household wealth per capita. These findings suggest that the observed fit of human body surface-to-volume with current climate in this sample reflects relatively large effects of existing genetic population structure of contemporary humans compared to plastic response to current environments.