Variation and signatures of selection on the human face

  • Guo J
  • Tan J
  • Yang Y
 et al. 
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Abstract

There has been much debate about why humans throughout the world differ in facial form. Previous studies of human skull morphology found levels of among-population differentiation that were comparable to those of neutral genetic markers, suggesting that genetic drift (neutral processes) played an important role in influencing facial differentiation. However, variation in soft-tissue morphology has not been studied in detail. In this study, we analyzed high-resolution 3D images of soft-tissue facial form in four Eurasian populations: Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghur and Europeans. A novel method was used to establish a high-density alignment across all of the faces, allowing facial diversity to be examined at an unprecedented resolution. These data exhibit signatures of population structure and history. However, among-population differentiation was higher for soft-tissue facial form than for genome-wide genetic loci, and high-resolution analyses reveal that the nose, brow area and cheekbones exhibit particularly strong signals of differentiation (Qstestimates: 0.3-0.8) between Europeans and Han Chinese. Our results suggest that local adaptation and/or sexual selection have been important in shaping human soft-tissue facial morphology.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 3D imaging
  • Human facial morphology
  • Morphological divergence
  • Natural selection
  • Sexual selection

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Authors

  • Jing Guo

  • Jingze Tan

  • Yajun Yang

  • Hang Zhou

  • Sile Hu

  • Agu Hashan

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