Genetic Basis of Human Biodiversity: An Update



The massive efforts to study the human genome in detail have produced extraordinary amounts of genetic data. Although we still fail to understand the molecular bases of most complex traits, including many common diseases, we now have a clearer idea of the degree of genetic resemblance between humans and other primate species. We also know that humans are genetically very close to each other, indeed more than any other primates, that most of our genetic diversity is accounted for by individual differences within populations, and that only a small fraction of the species’ genetic variance falls between populations and geographic groups thereof. However, population differences are large enough for patterns to emerge, and these patterns have been extremely useful to reconstruct the history of human migration and to recognise the effects of reproductive isolation. In many cases, crucial information about human demographic history has emerged from multidisciplinary analyses, which have stressed the importance of cultural, as well as geographical, barriers in causing local divergence of populations.



During the development of this paper, VC was supported by a MIUR (Italian Ministry of the Universities and Research) 2007 FIRB grant (The impact of biotechnological innovation of individual rights. An interdisciplinary study.) We thank Kenneth K. Kidd for the idea of Figure 6.3., based on material published at his website:


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and EvolutionUniversity of FerraraFerraraItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Genetics and Biophysics “A. Buzzati-Traverso”National Research Council (CNR)NaplesItaly

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