Evolution of Human Skin Color and Vitamin D

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Basic understanding of the evolution of human skin color has been achieved through a synthesis of information from comparative anatomy and physiology, paleontology, comparative and functional genomics, and remote sensing of solar output. Early members of the genus Homo with functionally naked skin evolved permanent eumelanin pigmentation under strong equatorial ultraviolet radiation in Africa. Eurasian dispersals of Homo erectus around 1.8. million. years ago and of Homo sapiens around 55,000. years ago were accompanied by loss of pigmentation under positive selection for cutaneous vitamin D production. Similar pigmentation phenotypes evolved repeatedly as the result of independent genetic events when isolated human populations dispersed into habitats of extremely low and high ultraviolet B. Through time, human adaptations to different solar regimes have become more cultural than biological. Rapid human migrations, increasing urbanization, and changes in lifestyle have created mismatches between skin pigmentation and environmental conditions leading to vitamin D deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBiochemistry, Physiology and Diagnostics
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780128099667
ISBN (Print)9780128099650
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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