Review

How culture shaped the human genome: bringing genetics and the human sciences together

  • Nature Reviews Genetics volume 11, pages 137148 (2010)
  • doi:10.1038/nrg2734
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Abstract

Researchers from diverse backgrounds are converging on the view that human evolution has been shaped by gene–culture interactions. Theoretical biologists have used population genetic models to demonstrate that cultural processes can have a profound effect on human evolution, and anthropologists are investigating cultural practices that modify current selection. These findings are supported by recent analyses of human genetic variation, which reveal that hundreds of genes have been subject to recent positive selection, often in response to human activities. Here, we collate these data, highlighting the considerable potential for cross-disciplinary exchange to provide novel insights into how culture has shaped the human genome.

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Acknowledgements

The authors' research was supported in part by grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/C005430/1) and the European Union (NESTPathfinder, CULTAPTATION) to K.N.L. S.M. is supported by the US Department of Agriculture. We are grateful to M. Feldman, L. Fortunato, P. Sabeti and M. Stoneking for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Biology, University of St Andrews, Bute Building, Westburn Lane, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TS, UK.

    • Kevin N. Laland
  2. School of Anthropology, University of Oxford, 51/53 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PE, UK.

    • John Odling-Smee
  3. Institute for Genomic Diversity, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2703, USA.

    • Sean Myles
  4. Biology Department, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia B4P 2R6, Canada.

    • Sean Myles

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Kevin N. Laland.