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Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia

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Science  03 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6401, pp. 511-516
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8486

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The genetics of human short stature

Flores Island in Indonesia has a long history of hominin occupation, including by the extinct Homo floresiensis and a more recent settlement by modern humans. Furthermore, Flores has an extant population of pygmy humans, and H. floresiensis exhibited a diminutive adult size relative to other hominins. Tucci et al. examined genetic variation among 32 individuals, including 10 sequenced genomes, from a population of pygmies living close to the cave where H. floresiensis remains were discovered. These individuals exhibit signatures of polygenic selection explaining the short stature and have genomic content from both Neanderthals and Denisovans, but no additional archaic lineages. Thus, restricted height is under selection at this location and has evolved independently at least twice in hominins.

Science, this issue p. 511

Abstract

Flores Island, Indonesia, was inhabited by the small-bodied hominin species Homo floresiensis, which has an unknown evolutionary relationship to modern humans. This island is also home to an extant human pygmy population. Here we describe genome-scale single-nucleotide polymorphism data and whole-genome sequences from a contemporary human pygmy population living on Flores near the cave where H. floresiensis was found. The genomes of Flores pygmies reveal a complex history of admixture with Denisovans and Neanderthals but no evidence for gene flow with other archaic hominins. Modern individuals bear the signatures of recent positive selection encompassing the FADS (fatty acid desaturase) gene cluster, likely related to diet, and polygenic selection acting on standing variation that contributed to their short-stature phenotype. Thus, multiple independent instances of hominin insular dwarfism occurred on Flores.

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