The evolution of skin color

Penn State anthropologist Nina Jablonski is reimagining how we look at skin color.

“I’m hoping this research gives people the appreciation that their bodies are the products of evolution,” said Nina Jablonski, Evan Pugh University Professor of Anthropology at Penn State. “We’ve undergone evolutionary change just like the bodies of other creatures. And this evolution has implications for our health.” Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — We inherit our skin color from our ancestors, and so it is obviously a trait that is tied to our biology and genetics. But what is it that brought about such a diversity of human skin colors? And how can knowledge about the natural history of skin inform questions surrounding societal notions of skin color and our health?

These are a few questions that form the basis for what Penn State anthropologist Nina Jablonski calls an explanatory framework of the evolution of skin pigmentation in modern human beings. It all began in the early 1990s when Jablonski began exploring gaps in the literature about the evolution of human skin and skin color.

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Last Updated June 03, 2019