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Thread: Human height

  1. #1 Human height 
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    Hello.

    I would like to know how did the human height evolve within the last 50 000 years. I found out that Cro-Magnon was 180cm tall in average, which is slightly more than us. But I thought we were currently getting taller than our ancestors. Did the height fall down to rise again?

    Thanks.

    PS. sorry for my english, i'm French.


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  3. #2  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    my impression was that it was all a matter of nutrition - despite the "advances" of the agricultural revolution, for individual human beings it meant a drop in living standards

    something we've only turned around in the last 2 centuries


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    Yep, i'm pretty sure it's all about standard of living. But what do we know about the variations of height through time?
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    i suppose archeological records should be able to help you there
    i'm not aware of any summary study though (which doesn't necessarily mean there isn't any)
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  6. #5  
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    I am 1.83 metres tall (6 feet). Cro Magnon males prior to 25,000 years ago were 1.8 metres on average, while the average for a modern male European (or white American) is now 1.77. Not terribly much difference, and I am not sure how significant this is. I strongly suspect that the experimental error in methods of estimating Cro-magnon height is probably greater than the difference between 1.77 and 1.8 metres.

    However, for what it is worth, I have seen a suggestion that early Cro-magnon was a plains dweller, requiring longer legs for faster running. I suspect that this may be simply a rough hypothesis, but it is as good a guess as any. My own theory is that there is no difference, and the measured difference is due to the errors inherent in the technique.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    have you ever been in a medieval castle and noticed how doors and passages seem so low to you? or have you seen coffins of people from the middle ages, the size of which you wouldn't fit in ?

    you'll notice that even a few hundred years ago the average human height in europe was more like 1.6 metres tall
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  8. #7  
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    Off the top of my head, I know what the trends in height were in the US for the last 100 years or so - basically, if you were rich you were tall and if you were poor you were short. It was purely a nutrition thing. (Back then, height was not very heritable.) Now that you can get all the fat you need from McDonald's for a couple bucks, everyone has enough nutrition to more or less meet their genetic height potential. Now height is very heritable.

    If I recall correctly, Cro Magnon and other early Homo sapiens were more robust than modern humans today. Essentially, their bones are thicker. That may have a cumulative effect of their being on average slightly taller than humans today. That's just speculation on my part though.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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  9. #8  
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    If John Komlos ( sample )and related researchers are correct, there is little or no difference in median genetic height between any two major groups of humans world wide (that is: barring the San and Batwa "pigmies" in Africa, and maybe a couple of others of equivalently ancient lineage, all the races and ethnicities on the planet will grow to the same average height under the same conditions).

    That would imply no evolutionary change in human height for a long time now - since the migrations into Europe, Asia, and the Americas, anyway.

    In support of that lack of genetic determination of differences in median height:

    The Dutch around WWI - WWII were the shortest people in Europe and among the shorter peoples on earth. Now they are the tallest people on the planet.

    The tallest people known on the planet in the 1800s were the Northern Cheyenne reds of North America - something like three inches taller than the whites landing at New York harbor at the time. These immigrant European whites caught up to them in two generations.

    The very short reds of the Andes Mountains of South America, so short they are listed among the "pigmy" or dwarf peoples in older reference books, have adolescent children of normal regional size among their immigrant populations in Los Angeles.
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  10. #9  
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    I wonder if it's straight volume of nutrition, or if certain foods affect your pituitary gland differently, or otherwise contribute by offering specific nutrients? It would be really funny if it turned out there was a specific food you could feed your kid and they would end up growing taller.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I wonder if it's straight volume of nutrition, or if certain foods affect your pituitary gland differently, or otherwise contribute by offering specific nutrients? It would be really funny if it turned out there was a specific food you could feed your kid and they would end up growing taller.
    It's a definite combination of genes and environment. Well fed people will always be on average taller than undernutritioned people, but even if everyone gets the same nutrition some people will still be taller than others, and that will be the effect of genes.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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  12. #11  
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    Besides nutrition, load shock on the bones from normal youthful activity will increase bone length as well as thickness. We see this where childhood deformity or injury caused the child to go easy on one leg.

    Also stroking and cradling by caregivers significantly accelerates baby bone growth. This was a controlled orphanage experiment that's been corroborated with animals. Partially explains runts... kinda sad to think that humans too create runts.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Besides nutrition, load shock on the bones from normal youthful activity will increase bone length as well as thickness. We see this where childhood deformity or injury caused the child to go easy on one leg.

    Also stroking and cradling by caregivers significantly accelerates baby bone growth. This was a controlled orphanage experiment that's been corroborated with animals. Partially explains runts... kinda sad to think that humans too create runts.
    So, the one they went easy on is the short leg?

    I remember meeting this fairly tall girl in college who said she was very short before she started doing gymnastics in middle school, then after she quit she had a massive growth spurt. (Her belief was that the impact from the sport had kept her shorter, but now I'm starting to wonder if in the long run it made her end up taller than she would have been?)
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  14. #13  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I remember meeting this fairly tall girl in college who said she was very short before she started doing gymnastics in middle school, then after she quit she had a massive growth spurt. (Her belief was that the impact from the sport had kept her shorter, but now I'm starting to wonder if in the long run it made her end up taller than she would have been?)
    I think that's more likely to be a nutrition thing. If you're heavily involved in a strenuous sport, a lot of your incoming energy is going towards that activity and less of it is staying in your body to help growth and maintenance. There are many systems in our bodies that are sensitive to energy level and respond accordingly; for example, if a woman is not getting enough nutrition, she'll stop ovulating. Her body "knows" how much energy it takes to gestate and lactate, and if there isn't enough to reasonably expect the survival of the baby, it won't bother trying. I've personally known several female athletes who simply stopped having their periods during intense competition seasons. But in middle school, most girls aren't ovulating yet because they have to hit their growth spurt first. Your friend's body was probably waiting until it had enough nutrition, and then it went crazy. It's called catch-up growth, and it's a fairly well known thing.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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  15. #14  
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    Just a side note, the Homo floresiensis had the dwarfish height of 1.09 m (3 ft 7 in), and they were predicted to live as recently as 12,000 years ago. Just saying
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