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Growth of the Kalahari Desert’s bushman ‐ the Ju/’hoansi San

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Aim:  The Ju/’hoansi San (JHS) of the Kalahari Desert are the archetype of a hunter‐gatherer society that practices natural fertility, living on a rich diet in a harsh environs.

Methods:  To explore the evolutionary adaptation of child growth under such conditions, the present study takes a life history approach and compares the growth data of 140 JHS females and 126 JHS males age 1–25 to those in 3rd percentile American and Swedish references. The data are based on observations of the JHS that were made in 1967–1969.

Results:  During infancy, the JHS boys lose 1.5 SDS and girls – 0.3 SDS in terms of Swedish reference. The height SDS of the JHS did not change significantly during their childhood, but growth deceleration during the juvenile period (middle childhood) was substantially greater and longer, amounting to a loss of 1.6 SDS for both girls and boys. Adolescent spurt was substantially later and smaller than that of the short‐statured Americans.

Conclusions:  The results suggest that the short stature of the JHS is mostly established during juvenility, in adaptation to their unique living conditions.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden 2: Endocrine Division, Meyer Children’s Hospital, Rambam Medical Center and Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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