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Scientists find possible genetic cause for Pygmies' height

April 30, 2012

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania recently released the findings of a study concerning Western African Pygmies in Cameroon. The exact reason for short stature of these individuals has long been a debate among scientists, but this new study finds possible genetic explanations for the height of African pygmies. Pygmy men have an average height of 4 feet, 11 inches, while men living in surrounding communities are more than half a foot taller. Some have speculated the smaller size of the pygmies is an adaptation to their environment, but the fact they are the only group in the area that stays small indicates other factors are at play.

"There's been a long-standing debate about why pygmies are so short and whether it is an adaptation to living in a tropical environment," said lead author Sarah Tishkoff, a genetics and biology professor at UPenn. "I think our findings are telling us that the genetic basis of complex traits like height may be very different in globally diverse populations."

This is the first time researchers have studied the genomes of individuals from the Pygmy population, and the study points to hormonal pathways and immune system regulation as possible links to the height of these individuals.

Those who want to find out more about the Pygmy people can make calls to Cameroon with phone cards to talk to their friends.

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