Forager and farmer evolutionary adaptations to malaria evidenced by 7000 years of thalassemia in Southeast Asia

Vlok, Melandri, Buckley, Hallie R., Miszkiewicz, Justyna J., Walker, Meg M., Domett, Kate, Willis, Anna, Trinh, Hiep H., Minh, Tran T., Nguyen, Mai Huong T., Nguyen, Lan Cuong, Matsumura, Hirofumi, Wang, Tianyi, Nghia, Huu T., and Oxenham, Marc F. (2021) Forager and farmer evolutionary adaptations to malaria evidenced by 7000 years of thalassemia in Southeast Asia. Scientific Reports, 11 (1). 5677.

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Thalassemias are inherited blood disorders that are found in high prevalences in the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. These diseases provide varying levels of resistance to malaria and are proposed to have emerged as an adaptive response to malaria in these regions. The transition to agriculture in the Holocene has been suggested to have influenced the selection for thalassemia in the Mediterranean as land clearance for farming encouraged interaction between Anopheles mosquitos, the vectors for malaria, and human groups. Here we document macroscopic and microscopic skeletal evidence for the presence of thalassemia in both hunter-gatherer (Con Co Ngua) and early agricultural (Man Bac) populations in northern Vietnam. Firstly, our findings demonstrate that thalassemia emerged prior to the transition to agriculture in Mainland Southeast Asia, from at least the early seventh millennium BP, contradicting a long-held assumption that agriculture was the main driver for an increase in malaria in Southeast Asia. Secondly, we describe evidence for significant malarial burden in the region during early agriculture. We argue that the introduction of farming into the region was not the initial driver of the selection for thalassemia, as it may have been in other regions of the world.

Item ID: 68148
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit © The Author(s) 2021.
Funders: National Geographic (NG), Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ), University of Otago (UO), Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: NG Early Career Grant EC-54332R-18, RSNZ Skinner Fund Grant, UO Doctoral Scholarship, ARC DP110101097, ARC FT120100299, ARC DE190100068
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2021 02:43
FoR Codes: 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430101 Archaeological science @ 50%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430102 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 50%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130702 Understanding Asia’s past @ 100%
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