Repository logo

Population history and ecology, in addition to climate, influence human stature and body proportions.

Published version

Change log


Stock, Jay T 
Wells, Jonathan CK 


Worldwide variation in human stature and limb proportions is widely accepted to reflect thermal adaptation, but the contribution of population history to this variation is unknown. Furthermore, stature and relative lower limb length (LLL) show substantial plastic responses to environmental stressors, e.g., nutrition, pathogen load, which covary with climate. Thus ecogeographic patterns may go beyond temperature-based selection. We analysed global variation in stature, sitting height and absolute and relative LLL using large worldwide samples of published anthropometric data from adult male (n = 571) and female (n = 268) populations in relation to temperature, humidity, and net primary productivity (NPP). Population history was modeled using spatial eigenvector mapping based on geographic distances reflecting the hypothesized pattern for the spread of modern humans out of Africa. Regression models account for ~ 50% of variation in most morphological variables. Population history explains slightly more variation in stature, sitting height and LLL than the environmental/climatic variables. After adjusting for population history, associations between (usually maximum) temperature and LLL are consistent with Allen's "rule" and may drive similar relationships with stature. NPP is a consistent negative predictor of anthropometry, which may reflect the growth-limiting effects of lower environmental resource accessibility (inversely related to NPP) and/or pathogen load.



Adult, Anthropology, Physical, Anthropometry, Climate, Ecological and Environmental Phenomena, Female, Humans, Male, Population Dynamics

Journal Title

Sci Rep

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Springer Science and Business Media LLC
European Research Council (617627)