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Adaptation to High Altitude in Tibet
July 2, 2010 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Tibetans May Be Fastest Evolutionary Adapters Ever. "A group of scientists in China, Denmark and the U.S. recently documented the fastest genetic change observed in humans. According to their findings, Tibetan adaption to high altitude might have taken just 3,000 years. That's a flash, in terms of evolutionary time, but it's one that's in dispute."
posted by homunculus (12 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting. 3,000 years is about 100 generations, which doesn't seem outrageous.

But... if Tibetans had a genetic propensity for more efficient O2 transport, why is it that we don't see Tibetans dominate endurance sports?
posted by phliar at 5:12 PM on July 2, 2010


I don't know, but there once supposedly was a tradition of runners in Tibet called the Lung-gom-pa (scroll down).
posted by homunculus at 5:36 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd love to see some comparable data on Altiplano natives, but I'm not sure who the Han Chinese equivalent group would be.
posted by elizardbits at 5:37 PM on July 2, 2010


Quechua and Aymara?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:55 PM on July 2, 2010


If the environmental pressure decreases the survival of babies, that might be more effective than reduced mating activity.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:12 PM on July 2, 2010


It could also be that only people who could stand the altitude moved into that area in the first place, so the population started out with a higher percentage of altitude-ready individuals.
posted by fshgrl at 9:08 PM on July 2, 2010


It could also be that only people who could stand the altitude moved into that area in the first place, so the population started out with a higher percentage of altitude-ready individuals.

Yes, the article said one of the genes responsible for the most dramatic adaption was present in 'less than 10%' of Han Chinese, and it implies that the other changes are present to some extent.

If some of the initial settlers died, couldn't live and have kids successfully or just didn't live there it sounds like a lot of selective breeding could have taken place, which is different to evolution from scratch.

Is this really surprising?
posted by Not Supplied at 11:06 PM on July 2, 2010


Also, I don't know about the settlement of Tibet, but it seems likely that hillmen would take it on in the first place.
posted by Not Supplied at 11:10 PM on July 2, 2010


it sounds like a lot of selective breeding could have taken place, which is different to evolution from scratch.

This. Evolution is slow. Natural selection is fast like greasy lightning.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:28 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


John Hawks has a good post on this story.
posted by Stan Carey at 8:40 AM on July 3, 2010


In other Tibet news: Tibetans Fear a Broader Crackdown: The prosecution of prominent Tibetans in China has sent a chill through a community that once thought itself immune to the heavy hand of Beijing.
posted by homunculus at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2010


Tibetans and humans are the same species. So they can't evolve faster than us--they ARE us.

If anything, a person of Tibetan ancestry may have already "maxed out" their potential for high altitude living and would thus evolve slower (even though that makes no sense for a single person) than a person of non-Tibetan ancestry.
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on July 6, 2010


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