File - A group of pygmies sheltering from the rain in Mubambiro village, near Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.
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Scientists have long sought to understand how the physical development of pygmies, who derived from a common Bantu-speaking ancestor some 60,000 years ago, differs from that of other human groups.The new study, based on growth data from several hundred members of Cameroon's Baka pygmy tribe from birth to adulthood, found that their growth pattern differed not only from that of taller races, but also from other pygmies.The team hypothesized that "a population living around the periphery of the rain forest moved eastward and westward to follow the forest's regression and the expansion of the savannah, which at this point was nearing the Equator" due to climate changes associated with the last ice age.The two groups became isolated from one another after the climate started warming again about 13,000 years ago, and adapted independently to their new environmental conditions.The findings suggest human growth patterns can evolve relatively quickly – a phenomenon called "plasticity" that would have allowed mankind to adapt easily to new conditions.
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