Evolutionary perspectives on human height variation

Abstract

Human height is a highly variable trait, both within and between populations, has a high heritability, and influences the manner in which people behave and are treated in society. Although we know much about human height, this information has rarely been brought together in a comprehensive, systematic fashion. Here, we present a synthetic review of the literature on human height from an explicit evolutionary perspective, addressing its phylogenetic history, development, and environmental and genetic influences on growth and stature. In addition to presenting evidence to suggest the past action of natural selection on human height, we also assess the evidence that natural and sexual selection continues to act on height in contemporary populations. Although there is clear evidence to suggest that selection acts on height, mainly through life‚Äźhistory processes but perhaps also directly, it is also apparent that methodological factors reduce the confidence with which such inferences can be drawn, and there remain surprising gaps in our knowledge. The inability to draw firm conclusions about the adaptiveness of such a highly visible and easily measured trait suggests we should show an appropriate degree of caution when dealing with other human traits in evolutionary perspective.

Publication
In Biological Reviews
Date