Fujita, Masako, U. of Washington, Seattle, WA - To aid 'An Evolutionary Perspective on Mother-Offspring Vitamin A Transfer,' supervised by Dr. Bettina Shell Duncan
MASAKO FUJITA, then a student at University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, was awarded a grant in April 2006 to aid research on 'An Evolutionary Perspective on Mother-Offspring Vitamin A Transfer,' supervised by Dr. Bettina Shell-Duncan. This project investigated the perplexing decline in breastmilk vitamin A (VA) concentrations across the postpartum months. Applying the concept of life-history tradeoffs, this decline was hypothesized to be an evolved maternal reproductive strategy optimizing physiological reallocation of VA between competing needs of current and future reproduction depending on postpartum time and reproductive status. The hypotheses were tested using breastmilk VA and maternal hepatic VA data, collected among 250 lactating Ariaal mothers in northern Kenya, as indices for maternal investment respectively on current reproduction and future reproduction. Data indicated maternal hepatic VA is in a trade-off relationship with milk VA postpartum. Breastmilk VA does not track hepatic VA but instead declines despite increasing hepatic stores in the late postpartum period. Results shed light on the evolutionary ecological heritage of human micronutrient metabolism and human reproduction, and further illuminate policy directions for currently recommended public health strategy of high-dose postpartum maternal VA supplementation.
Fujita, Masako, Eric Roth, Yun-Kia Lo, Carolyn Hurst, Jennifer Vollner, and Ashley Kendell. 2012. In Poor Families, Mothers' Milk is Richer for Daughters than Sons: A Test of Trivers-Willard Hypothesis in Agropastoral Settlements in Northern Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 149(1):52-59.
Kaestle, Dr. Frederika A., Indiana U., Bloomington, IN; and Ribeiro-Dos-Santos, Andrea, U. Federal do Para, Belem, Brazil - To aid collaborative research on 'mtDNA in Brazilian Prehistoric Groups of the Last 12,000 Years'
Vitzthum, Dr. Virginia Judith, State U. of New York, Binghamton, NY - To aid research on 'Testing Hypotheses of the Dietary Determinants of Ovarian Hormones: A Comparative Study of Three Populations'
DR. VIRGINIA J. VITZTHUM, Institute of Primary and Preventative Health Care, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York, was awarded a grant in May 2006 to aid research on 'Testing Hypotheses of the Dietary Determinants of Ovarian Hormones: A Comparative Study of Three Populations.' This research is part of a larger project to elucidate the ecological, behavioral, and ontogenetic determinants of variation in women's reproductive functioning. This phase of the project evaluated the relative importance of total caloric intake versus dietary fat consumption in determining ovarian steroid variation by comparing hormone levels in nomadic-herding Mongolian women (high fat/low calorie diets) with those in previously collected samples of agropastoral Bolivian women (low fat/low calorie diets) and Chicago women (high fat/high calorie diets). Daily biological samples spanning a menstrual cycle and data on covariates were collected from 40 nomadic Mongolian women during July through September 2006. Assays were conducted in collaboration with Dr. Tobias Deschner at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Initial analyses suggest that ovarian steroid levels are at least as high as those of U.S. women, suggesting that dietary fat may be the more important factor. In addition to increasing current understanding of the sources of variation in ovarian functioning, this finding suggests that the modulation of reproductive functioning during a woman's lifespan may be sensitive to variation in dietary fat intake. Ongoing research includes the collection of a comparative sample of German women and planned research includes genetic analyses to ascertain the potential contribution of genotypic variation to hormonal variation.
Betti, Lia, U. of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Out of Africa and What Happened Next: Exploring the Origins of Human Pelvic Shape Variability,' supervised by Dr. Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel
LIA BETTI, then a student at University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom, received a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Out of Africa and What Happened Next: Exploring the Origins of Human Pelvic Shape Variability,' supervised by Dr. Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel. The origin of human morphological diversification is one of the most intriguing questions in human evolution. Starting from a single origin of the species, how did the current pattern of morphological diversity between populations develop? Recent studies on cranial shape variation disclosed a very strong signature of the Out Of Africa expansion of our species on the global pattern of morphological diversity. This study builds upon this knowledge and explores the foundation of pelvic shape variation. Being involved in locomotion, childbirth, and potentially subject to climatic factors, the pelvis is a key anatomical region in studies of human biology and evolution. 3D pelvic morphometric data were collected from 27 globally distributed modern human populations. An explicit population genetic approach was used to explore the effect of different evolutionary factors on the global pattern of variation, revealing a strong signature of ancient demographic history on pelvic shape variation, with climatic adaptation and obstetrical constraints playing a secondary role.
Betti, Lia. 2014. Sexual Dimorphism in the Size and Shape of the Os Coxae and the Effects of Microevolutionary Processes. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 153(2):167-177.
Garofalo, Evan Michele, Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MD - To aid research on 'Genetic and Environmental Effects on Skeletal Growth Variation,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Britton Ruff
EVAN M. GAROFALO, then a student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, received funding in May 2010, to aid research on 'Genetic and Environmental Effects on Skeletal Growth Variation,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Britton Ruff. Adult morphology and variation are the result of complex interactions between genetic and environmental effects during the growth process. Health, disease, and socio-economic status are important for the regulation of the growth trajectory, particularly during infancy and early childhood. However, genetic differences, increasing in prominence during adolescence, contribute significantly to growth profiles and the attainment of adult morphology. Thus, the primary goal of this project is to partition the relative importance of environmental and genetic influences on the timing and nature of the growth process. Multiple skeletal variables, each differentially sensitive to environmental and genetic influence, were examined to assess the skeletal growth of individuals from St. Peter's Church (Barton-upon-Humber, UK) -- a socially stratified and relatively genetically homogeneous population. In this study, there is no effect of socioeconomic status on long bone length, stature, body mass or articular dimensions. However, long bone diaphyseal cross-sectional cortical and medullary areas (considered to be highly environmentally sensitive) show marked differences, primarily during infancy and early childhood, with reduced or no differences for young adults. Early results and palaeopathological observations suggest socioeconomic groups differences may be related to sustaining more prolonged durations of metabolic distress in the higher socioeconomic subadult sample.
Klein, Laura Danielle, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Impacts of Maternal Disease Ecology on Milk Immunofactors and Infant Immune System Development,' supervised by Dr. Katherine J. Hinde
Preliminary abstract: Mothers' milk provides crucial immunological protection to the infant during early life. However, little is known about how the immune molecules that are present in milk vary among women living in vastly different nutritional, disease, and cultural ecologies. This project will use a longitudinal study in a population of small-scale agriculturalists at the Mogielica Human Ecology Study Site in southern Poland to investigate how aspects of the local environment, including diet and disease exposure, relate to the variation in composition of immune factors in breast milk within a population. This project will also examine how variation in mothers' milk might influence infant immune system development by taking advantage of a regularly schedule vaccine that mimics a natural immune challenge.
Paschetta, Carolina Andrea, U. Nacional de Rio Cuarto, Puerto Madryn, Argentina - To aid research on 'Dietary Shifts During Modem Human Evolution and their Effect on Craniofacial Size and Shape,' supervised by Dr. Rolando Gonzalez-Jose
Preliminary abstract: The craniofacial phenotype can suffer changes promoted by epigenetic or environmental factors. Among them, masticatory mechanical stress is perhaps one of the most important epigenetic stimuli which acted during the recent evolution of our species. In particular, technological transition from hunting-gathering is invoked to be concomitant with a significant reduction of masticatory stress. The main objective is quantify the differences in modern human samples with different economic strategies (hunter/gatherers, farmers, etc.), not only in the overall skull morphology, as well as in localized structures, in order to detect common, recurrent changes in craniofacial size and shape due to environmental stimuli. A geometric morphometrics techniques will be used to track these changes on at least three cases of economic transitions on New World populations. Changes observed in concomitance on all the transitions will be, in consequence, postulated as good candidates of plastic structures which probably promoted rapid evolution of modern humans across different adaptive (dietary, nutritional) shifts.
Wander, Katherine Susan, U. of Washington, Seattle, WA - To aid research on 'Immunocompetence and the Hygiene Hypothesis,' supervised by Dr. Bettina Shell-Duncan
KATHERINE S. WANDER, then a student at University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, received funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'Immunocompetence and the Hygiene Hypothesis,' supervised by Dr. Bettina Shell-Duncan. Extensive research in allergy epidemiology has demonstrated that early exposure to infectious agents is associated with lower risk of allergic disease. An evolutionary perspective suggests that such early exposure may affect not only pathological immune responses to allergens, but also healthy immune responses to pathogens as a developmental adaptation, tailoring immune responses to the local infectious disease ecology. To evaluate this hypothesis, this project evaluated associations between early life infectious disease exposure and: 1) allergic disease; and 2) delayed-type hypersensitivity to Candin (an immune response to pathogen antigen, indicating immunocompetence). Consistent with finding in the US and Europe, large family size was associated with lower risk of diagnosed allergic disease. Consistent with the hypothesized developmental adaptation in immune system development, large family size, hospitalization during infancy with an infectious disease, and BCG vaccination scar were positively associated with immunocompetence (delayed-type hypersensitivity to Candin). These results suggest that not only do early infections discourage the pathological immune responses that result in allergy, they also promote healthy immune responses to pathogens, reflecting adaptive plasticity in immune system development.