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Recent Human Evolution to Altitude

Hypoxia on Cotopaxi

I took the above photo from 18,700 feet near the summit of Cotopaxi, an (active) volcano in the Ecuadorean Andes. We were suffering from a bit of exertional and hypoxic stress in this photo. On the other hand, native people of the Andes can cope with hypoxia at altitude better than us geentic lowlanders. How is this so? The evolutionary biology of high altitude peoples of the Andes, Himalayas, and Ethiopian Plateau is the topic for September 1st.

We will explore the different routes to physiologic adaptation to altitude in Tuesday’s class.

For discussion: How might gene-environment mismatch account for acute mountain sickness in Europeans? How many generations does it take to evolve solutions to the problem of living in a high altitude environment?

Updated! Writing assignment: Native people in the Ecuadorean Andes have more red blood cells than we do. Is that trait adaptive? What about Ecuadoreans who migrate to the US? Is that trait still adaptive? Can you think of any tradeoffs or downsides to having elevated numbers of red blood cells?

Handout for Tuesday’s lecture:

High Altitude Cultures

Readings for September 1st:

1. Beall

2. Genes at high altitude

3. Genomic Signatures Reveal High Altitude Adaptation

Optional altitude readings:

A Novel Candidate Region for Genetic Adaptation to High Altitude in Andean Populations

Adaptation and Maladaptation to Ambient Hypoxia: Andean Ethiopian, and Himalayan Patterns.

Categories: Uncategorized

Joe Alcock

Emergency Physician, Educator, Researcher, interested in the microbiome, evolution, and medicine

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