Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas (2019-2023)

Integrative Human Historical Science of "Out of Eurasia"
Exploring the Mechanisms of the Development of Civilization


B03 Genetic diversity and physical changes associated with human dispersal and the development of complex societies


Principal Investigator
Noriko Seguchi (Faculty of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University)
Keiko Ishii (Graduate School of Informatics, Nagoya University)
Yuriko Igarashi (School of Dentistry at Matsudo, Nihon University)
Takafumi Katsumura (Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences)
Masahiro Matsunaga (Aichi Medicial Univerity)
Fuzuki Mizuno (Faculty of Medicine, Toho University)
Taro Yamamoto (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nagasaki University)
Shintaro Ueda (The University of Tokyo)
Hiroki Ota (Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo)
Shiori Yonemoto (The Kyushu University Museum)

Research outline

The aim of this project is to explain the genetic diversity and physical change associated with population dispersal and migration. The project will specifically examine how this relates to the development of complex societies, i.e., the formation of civilizations. This project includes collaboration with archaeologists, and it elucidates timings and routes of human dispersal from Asia, including the Japanese archipelago, to the Americas and Oceania. Using biological anthropological data, genetic data, and ancient DNA, it explicates population structure and history and how gene flow and genetic drift between and within populations took place. This project analyzes physical morphology, explores population structure and population demography, and evaluates how health status was influenced by parasites and infectious diseases among the ancient populations in these geographic areas. In addition, this project searches for candidates for genes of adaptation and cognitive abilities that enabled populations to expand to new frontiers. In order to explore all of those research questions, we apply the following approaches: A) integrative research using skeletal biology and genetics; and B) collaborative work utilizing psychology and genetics.

[A] 1) Our project group aims to reconstruct human dispersal and population history from Eurasia to the New World and Oceania using 3-dimensional craniofacial shape data and DNA analysis by a next generation sequencer. 2) We explore physical changes and morphological diversity due to humans adapting to various climatic environments during migration. 3) Climatic changes influenced food resources and population sizes associated with the expansion of human habitats. Consequently, those changes impacted human health status due to epidemic infectious disease events. Therefore, we reconstruct past health status using dental and skeletal stress markers, and estimate human population structure and demography. We also analyze parasitic, viral, and bacterial infectious diseases in the past utilizing a next generation sequencer. Integrating all these results, we aim to reconstruct (a) changes in food intake and nutritional status, past epidemic events of infectious diseases, population structure and demography, and morphological and genetic changes associated with the history of agriculture, the formation of states and nations, and urbanization. (b) Then, we try to explicate causes of the collapse/decline of ancient civilizations in the post-Columbian era.

[B] We search for candidate genes for “novelty seeking” using an animal model and explore the genetic polymorphism of “novelty seeking” and cognitive ability that led humans to disperse and migrate to new frontiers. This approach may lead to the discovery of genes related to the formation of cultures by humans.