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'
Vento, Melanie, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Evolutionary Perspectives on the Emergence of Chronic Metabolic Diseases in an Amazonian Bolivian Population,' supervised by Dr. William R. Leonard
MELANIE VENTO, then a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, was awarded funding in May 2008 to aid research on 'Evolutionary Perspectives on the Emergence of Chronic Metabolic Diseases in an Amazonian Bolivian Population,' supervised by Dr. William R. Leonard. This research among the Tsimane' builds on recent findings to shed light on why transitional populations may experience greater risk of obesity and chronic disease under conditions of rapid social change. The recent finding that inflammation -- an immune process stimulated by both infection and obesity -- is integral to cardiovascular disease (CVD) suggests that individuals in transitional populations (experiencing both pathogenic physical environments and weight gain) will face a double burden of harmful inflammatory stimuli, placing them at greater risk for CVD. Furthermore, for developing populations, the joint effects of under-nutrition and high infectious disease load in childhood may contribute to both small body size and depressed metabolic rates leaving adults particularly at risk for the development of obesity and associated chronic disorders when exposed to a more urbanized diet and lifestyle. This study integrates these perspectives to test a novel model for the role of population adaptation in the rise of chronic disease under conditions of social change. Adopting the developmental origins of health and disease framework, which recognizes the importance of early life adaptive physiological changes to a predicted future environment, the research investigates the roles that diet, activity, metabolism, and inflammation play in chronic disease risk when increased market exposure leads to shifts in nutritional status across the life course. More specifically, the study examines: 1) how greater market integration is associated with adult weight gain and chronic disease risk; 2) the role of adiposity, infection, and pathogenicity on inflammation (C-reactive protein levels); and 3) whether the combined influence of poor early nutritional environments (indicated by leg length), low metabolism and small size place Tsimane' at greater risk for obesity and CVD in adulthood.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.