Annu Rev Anthropol 2008 ;37:197-217
Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637.
Patterns of DNA sequence variation in the genome contain a record of past selective events. The ability to collect increasingly large data sets of polymorphisms has allowed investigators to perform hypothesis-driven studies of candidate genes as well as genome-wide scans for signatures of adaptations. This genetic approach to the study of natural selection has identified many signals consistent with predictions from anthropological studies. Selective pressures related to variation in climate, diet, and pathogen exposure have left strong marks on patterns of human variation. Additional signals of adaptations are observed in genes involved in chemosensory perception and reproduction. Several ongoing projects aim to sequence the complete genome of 1000 individuals from different human populations. These large-scale projects will provide data for more complete genome scans of selection, but more focused studies aimed at testing specific hypotheses will continue to hold an important place in elucidating the history of adaptations in humans.