The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Anthropology in the age of phenomics


Anthropology and Illinois Informatics Institute, University of Illinois

Thursday 1:30-1:45, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Understanding the ways in which genes and environments interact to produce complex phenotypes is of fundamental importance for the study of evolution. Several distinct traditions have arisen in response to this need in a number of different sub-disciplines of anthropology, including bioarchaeology, paleoanthropology, and anthropological genetics. Here, I examine the ways in which evolutionary genetic models may be elaborated on and used to approach long-standing questions about human variation and evolution in a way that synthesizes these different traditions and alloys them with trends in evolutionary biology. Using a mouse model, I show one way in which problems in the human fossil record may be approached from a genomic perspective. I also use evolutionary quantitative genetic models to recast classic questions about the causes of human variation in comparative context. Results from these two different ways of looking at variation both point to the need to adopt nuanced models of the causes of variation and the evolution of phenotypes that have long been called for from all corners of anthropology. An anthropological phenomics perspective that unifies the study of genes, environments, and their interactions in the whole human organism could answer this call. This will require the adoption of a highly collaborative "big data" approach to problems in human variation that presents many moral and practical problems that will necessitate considerable changes to the way in which we practice the craft of anthropology.

This study was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (BCS 0962903 to CCR)

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