Toward human phylogenetic intuitions

By Razib Khan | September 22, 2010 2:37 am


100 years ago a science based physical anthropology offered up very little as to a systematics of mankind beyond what you could intuit from visual assessments of phenotypic similarity alone. Instead, there were fantastical taxonomies which had little basis in the true pattern of variation and more in the nationalistic debates of that period. The Nordic, Mediterranean, and Alpine trichotomy of the European peoples had only marginally more concrete reality than the division between the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri.

We don’t live in such a fantastic age. Much of the mystery, and so potential for mischief, is gone. The “post-genomic” era means that old questions only vaguely perceived in the past are now well resolved. Quite often readers will ask a question as to the phylogenetic relationship between population A & B. If I don’t know off the top of my head, which is the norm, I’ll go to the search engine and look up what I’ve written on the topic. This has started to become tedious, in part because WordPress’ search engine leaves something to desired. So I have some papers bookmarked for immediate reference. They’re of wide scope (i.e., they don’t focus on just one population such as the Jews) and draw from a large number of markers to get a good picture of total genome relatedness. The focus within these papers tends to be genetic distances and relationships, not other topics of great interest such as natural selection. Also, I’ve tried to find links accessible to people without institutional access (for the Science link free registration will do it). If you can think of other papers, please leave the link in the comments.

Worldwide human relationships inferred from genome-wide patterns of variation

Genome-wide Insights into the Patterns and Determinants of Fine-Scale Population Structure in Humans

Toward a more uniform sampling of human genetic diversity: A survey of worldwide populations by high-density genotyping

The Population Reference Sample, POPRES: A Resource for Population, Disease, and Pharmacological Genetics Research

The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans

Genes mirror geography within Europe

Genomic Dissection of Population Substructure of Han Chinese and Its Implication in Association Studies

Reconstructing Indian population history

Whole-Genome Genetic Diversity in a Sample of Australians with Deep Aboriginal Ancestry

Genetic Variation and Population Structure in Native Americans

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics, Genomics
  • Naughtius Maximus

    Has it been established that any of the mutations used to categorise haplogroups have had any effect on physical appearance?

  • arosko

    Does anyone else find it really funny that a post entitled “Toward human phylogenetic intuitions” directly follows one entitled “The illusion of intuition”? If it’s an illusion, why would one want to move toward it?…

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  • Razib Khan

    yeah, i laughed when i saw it. obviously post – 1 had influenced me. but the bigger issue is that there are two kinds of intuition:

    1) innate competencies which are strongly biologically encoded. like face recognition

    2) learned competencies where people get better and better at a task to the point where those who are less competent or at a lower skill level can’t even perceive that the actions couldn’t be innate intuitions. additionally, to some extent the individuals who gain these learned competencies don’t always have reflective access to their rational thought processes as some cognitive pathways seem ‘encapsulated.’ the example of chess masters from the previous post is an example of this. setting aside the psychometric variates of outcomes in chess, there’s also the issue that those who invest a lot of time and effort just start to get so good that their cognitive feels like intuition of the kind of #1

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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