Does the Melanin Pigment of Human Skin Have Adaptive Value?: An Essay in Human Ecology and the Evolution of Race

  title={Does the Melanin Pigment of Human Skin Have Adaptive Value?: An Essay in Human Ecology and the Evolution of Race},
  author={Harold Francis Blum},
  journal={The Quarterly Review of Biology},
  pages={50 - 63}
  • H. Blum
  • Published 1 March 1961
  • Biology
  • The Quarterly Review of Biology
The widely accepted idea that melanin pigment in human skin protects against sunlight, and that this has bearing upon adaptation to life in the tropics and the distribution of races, is a examined in terms of its physical and Physiological aspects. Regarded in such terms the concept appears to have little merit. It is concluded that whereas the pigment may have a slight adaptive value as regards some aspects of the organism-environment relationship, it may be non-adaptive as regards others; and… 

Racial differences in pigmentation and natural selection

  • M. Deol
  • Biology
    Annals of human genetics
  • 1975
There is strong evidence for inter-specific homology of pigmentation loci in mammals, and the situation in man may not be radically different from that in other mammals, particularly the experimental species.

Adaptation and co‐adaptation of skin pigmentation and vitamin D genes in native Americans

It is argued that a gene network approach provides tools to explain human skin color variation since it indicates potential alleles co‐evolving in a compensatory way, and since food is also a source of vitamin D, dietary habits should also be considered.

Skin: Its Biology in Black and White

The study of skin and skin colour evolution in humans thus relies on evidence from comparative study of the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the skin of living people and primates, along with the comparativeStudy of the genes that determine these characteristics.

The evolution of human skin colouration and its relevance to health in the modern world.

  • N. Jablonski
  • Biology
    The journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
  • 2012
The range of pigmentation observed in modern humans today is the product of two opposing clines, one favoring photoprotection near the equator, the other favoring vitamin D photosynthesis nearer the poles.

The Evolutionary History of Human Skin Pigmentation

The genetic basis of skin color is less simple than previously thought and that geographic variation in skin pigmentation was influenced by the concerted action of different types of natural selection, rather than just by selective sweeps in a few key genes.

Evidence that stress to the epidermal barrier influenced the development of pigmentation in humans

Wide distribution, plurifunctionality, and conservation throughout vertebrate evolution implies roles for melanin that extend beyond a need for defense against genotoxic or photolytic doses of ultraviolet light exposure.

Was skin cancer a selective force for black pigmentation in early hominin evolution?

  • M. Greaves
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2014
Data on age-associated cancer incidence and lethality in albinos living at low latitudes in both Africa and Central America support the contention that skin cancer could have provided a potent selective force for the emergence of black skin in early hominins.

The adaptive response of human skin to the savanna

This work views the structure and function of human skin within a comparative and evolutionary framework that focuses on the environment in which the hominids evolved.

Evolution of Skin Pigmentation Differences in Humans

Genetic data indicate that the light pigmentation that characterizes populations in Europe and East Asia has evolved independently through positive selection, and that functional variation in pigmentation genes in high UVR populations has likely been subject to purifying selection.



Some Ecological Factors Bearing on the Origin and Evolution of Pigment in the Human Skin

It is proposed that the concealment factor innate in differing albedos in areas of differing light intensities and environmental illumination proffers a reasonable hypothesis by which to explain some of the variations in human melanization, especially as observed in "black"-skinned people.

The Melanocytes of Mammals

The problem of pigment spread is discussed and related to the anatomy of the melanocyte system and to the co-existence of variant types of melanocytes within a single individual.


Sufficient information on the physiological adjustments of arctic and tropical animals is now available so that an analysis of what phylogenetic pathways evolution has actually followed in the engineering of climatic adaptation of warm-blooded animals is attempted.

Relative efficiency of pigment and horny layer thickness in protecting the skin of Europeans and Africans against solar ultraviolet radiation *

From the point of view of thermoregulation at high environmental temperatures, a proven disadvantage of the Negro skin is that it reflects less, and therefore absorbs appreciably more (up to 36 %) of solar radiation than the white-skinned race.

Physiology of Man in the Desert

THE possibility that American troops might be required to fight in the desert caused a team of physiologists to go to the Colorado Desert in California during the summers of 1942 and 1943. Their


Few of the studies of temperature sensation have emphasized the importance of the perception of thermal change on the regulation of internal body temperature. Not only does the recognition of such

The absorption of human skin between 430 and 1,010 mu for blackbody radiation at various color temperatures.

The Inhibition of the Development of Histamine Sensitivity in Mice Immunized with Hemophilus pertussis and the Absorption of Human Skin between 430 and 1,010 mp for Black-Body Radiation at Various Color Temperatures is studied.

The cause of changes in sweating rate after ultraviolet radiation

Further work is reported to elucidate the pathogenesis of the changes in sweating after radiation, indicating that blockage of the mouths of sweat gland ducts was at least partly responsible for this reduction in sweating.


It has long been known that the sensation produced by a heat stimulus of fixed intensity increases with the size of the area stimulated. The observations which have been made on this phenomenon are

Time's Arrow and Evolution

  • H. Blum
  • Physics
    The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine
  • 1951
Dr. Blum's main thesis in this small volume is that from the origin of life, evolution has proceeded necessarily along certain channels, predetermined from without by the physical nature of the