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

@article{Blum1961DoesTM,
  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},
  year={1961},
  volume={36},
  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… 

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  • Biology
    Annals of human genetics
  • 1975
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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

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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.

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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 Evolutionary History of Human Skin Pigmentation

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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.

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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.

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The evolution of human skin coloration.

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The highest correlation between skin reflectance and UV levels was observed at 545 nm, suggesting that the main role of melanin pigmentation in humans is regulation of the effects of UV radiation on the contents of cutaneous blood vessels located in the dermis.

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
TLDR
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.

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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.
...

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