Phenotypic differences between highlanders and lowlanders in Papua New Guinea

André, Mathilde, Brucato, Nicolas, Plutniak, Sebastien, Kariwiga, Jason, Muke, John, Morez, Adeline, Leavesley, Matthew, Mondal, Mayukh, and Ricaut, François-Xavier (2021) Phenotypic differences between highlanders and lowlanders in Papua New Guinea. PLoS ONE, 16 (7). e0253921.

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


Objectives: Altitude is one of the most demanding environmental pressures for human populations. Highlanders from Asia, America and Africa have been shown to exhibit different biological adaptations, but Oceanian populations remain understudied [Woolcock et al., 1972; Cotes et al., 1974; Senn et al., 2010]. We tested the hypothesis that highlanders phenotypically differ from lowlanders in Papua New Guinea, as a result of inhabiting the highest mountains in Oceania for at least 20,000 years.

Materials and methods: We collected data for 13 different phenotypes related to altitude for 162 Papua New Guineans living at high altitude (Mont Wilhelm, 2,300-2,700 m above sea level (a.s.l.) and low altitude (Daru, <100m a.s.l.). Multilinear regressions were performed to detect differences between highlanders and lowlanders for phenotypic measurements related to body proportions, pulmonary function, and the circulatory system.

Results: Six phenotypes were significantly different between Papua New Guinean highlanders and lowlanders. Highlanders show shorter height (p-value = 0.001), smaller waist circumference (p-value = 0.002), larger Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) (p-value = 0.008), larger maximal (pvalue = 3.20e -4) and minimal chest depth (p-value = 2.37e -5) and higher haemoglobin concentration (p-value = 3.36e -4).

Discussion: Our study reports specific phenotypes in Papua New Guinean highlanders potentially related to altitude adaptation. Similar to other human groups adapted to high altitude, the evolutionary history of Papua New Guineans appears to have also followed an adaptive biological strategy for altitude.

Item ID: 70280
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Copyright Information: Copyright: © 2021 André et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2022 04:27
Downloads: Total: 341
Last 12 Months: 114
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page