Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Unity and diversity: Genetic studies on the population of China

Black, M.L., Wang, W. and Bittles, A.H. (2007) Unity and diversity: Genetic studies on the population of China. In: Santos, C. and Lima, M., (eds.) Recent advances in molecular biology and evolution : applications to biological anthropology. Research Signpost, Kerala, India, pp. 347-372.


Biological Anthropology was established in the 19th century, prior to the acceptance of Wallace and Darwin's theory of natural selection and the re-discovery of Mendel's work on Pisum sativum. Initially named Physical Anthropology, it relied on the analysis of physical traits and used mainly fossils (especially human bones) as evidence of the human evolutionary process. With the establishment of the Darwinian Theory and its re-definition as the Modern Synthesis, anthropologists had access to new forms of data, and many began to call themselves "biological anthropologists". In the beginning of the 20th century Biological Anthropology initiated a new era, with biochemical genetics and later with the direct study of DNA. “Old” questions, such as the shared ancestry of humans and the great apes or the impact of evolutionary forces on population structure, were now able to be scrutinized using these newly developed tools. The displacement of the analysis of diversity from phenotypic traits towards the study of the genetic basis of variation has demanded theoretical, methodological and technical developments. With new technologies being rapidly introduced in the Anthropological field and with the establishment of genomic databases, a great amount of comprehensive genetic data has been collected for populations around the world. The expanding amount of information derived from genome-wide polymorphism analysis is expected to have a dramatic impact on our perception of the human evolutionary history, as well as on aspects related with human health. Furthermore, advances in molecular genetic methodologies have enabled the recovery of DNA fragments from ancient remains, thus allowing the direct study of the genetic pool of extinct populations, and therefore contributing with new evidences for the origin of our species. This volume starts with the contextualization of the emergence of genetic markers and its impact in the advances of Biological Anthropology. Tools and theoretical methods that are presently used in this field are addressed, and their application to various pertinent topics in Anthropology (such as the peopling of the Americas or the relation among primates) is also revised. Moreover, a great attention is put toward ancient DNA studies, not only in its applications but also in its controversial use and problems.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Comparative Genomics
Publisher: Research Signpost
Publisher's Website:
Item Control Page Item Control Page