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Friday, May 11, 2012

Research sheds light on why pygmies are so short

Posted: Apr 26, 2012 3:35 PM

Source: NewsCore

Evan Leach 
Members of a village in Cameroon who are Pygmies

PHILADELPHIA -- A genetic study out Thursday adds to the decades-long debate over why pygmies evolved to be so short.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania studied the Western African Pygmies in Cameroon looking for the specific genes responsible for the group's diminutive stature.

The scientists identified some promising candidates in chromosome 3, but they also found mutations in genes associated with biological pathways that activate reproductive hormones.

Some theories have suggested that pygmies -- or groups of people whose men stand at 4 feet 11 inches tall on average -- evolved to be small in size as an adaptation to the hot temperatures and food scarcity in their jungle homes.

But the study, published in PLoS Genetics, could add credence to another theory that suggests pygmies evolved a short stature to start having babies earlier, since they usually only live until their late teens or early twenties.

Sarah Tishkoff, senior author on the study, said the finding was "intriguing in light of the hypothesis that the reason pygmies are short is so that they can reach reproductive maturity early."

She added, "Early reproduction could be a significant advantage in pygmies, whose life spans average between 15 and 24 years."

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