Variation and signatures of selection on the human face.
There has been much debate about why humans throughout the world differ in facial form. Previous studies of human skull morphology found levels of among-population differentiation that were comparable to those of neutral genetic markers, suggesting that genetic drift (neutral processes) played an important role in influencing facial differentiation. However, variation in soft-tissue morphology has not been studied in detail. In this study, we analyzed high-resolution 3D images of soft-tissue facial form in four Eurasian populations: Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghur and Europeans. A novel method was used to establish a high-density alignment across all of the faces, allowing facial diversity to be examined at an unprecedented resolution. These data exhibit signatures of population structure and history. However, among-population differentiation was higher for soft-tissue facial form than for genome-wide genetic loci, and high-resolution analyses reveal that the nose, brow area and cheekbones exhibit particularly strong signals of differentiation (Qst estimates: 0.3-0.8) between Europeans and Han Chinese. Our results suggest that local adaptation and/or sexual selection have been important in shaping human soft-tissue facial morphology.