Pygmy phenotype developed many times, adaptive to rainforest

After Big Bang

The small body size associated with the pygmy phenotype is probably a selective adaptation for rainforest hunter-gatherers, according to an international team of researchers. But all African pygmy phenotypes do not have the same genetic underpinning, suggesting a more recent adaptation than previously thought.

A Batwa woman and her child in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda. Credit: George Perry A Batwa woman and her child in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda.
Credit: George Perry

“I’m interested in how rainforest hunter-gatherers have adapted to their very challenging environments,” said George H. Perry, assistant professor of anthropology and biology, Penn State. “Tropical rainforests are difficult for humans to live in. It is extremely hot and humid with limited food, especially when fruit is not in season.”

A phenotype is the outward expression of genetic makeup and while two individuals with the same phenotype may look alike, their genes may differ substantially. The pygmy phenotype exists in many parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and potentially…

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