Human Ecology Group ☛ Prof. Adrian Jäggi

We study human (mal-)adaptation using an evolutionary-ecological perspective

Presentation of the Group

We study how humans have adapted to their environments over evolutionary history, and how current socio-ecological conditions may produce outcomes that are maladaptive or detrimental to health. We take a variety of approaches, including comparative research on nonhuman primates and the diversity of human populations known in the ethnographic record, but most importantly through in-depth study of people living in environmental conditions that are in many ways more similar to those experienced throughout evolutionary history than the modern societies we live in. Thus, many health problems that plague our society can be explained by a mismatch to the environments we have adapted to. Furthermore, an evolutionary perspective can illuminate differences in health-related outcomes among people within a society based on experienced socio-ecological conditions that shape the allocation of limited resources to competing demands, such as growth, reproduction or maintenance. The resulting tradeoffs may make evolutionary sense, but leave some people more vulnerable to health problems. Current research in our group focuses on sociality and its biological mechanisms and related medical issues such as social disorders or mental health, as well as a variety of other outcomes such as diet, exercise, obesity or metabolic syndrome. Our research framework, highlighting evolutionary mismatch and tradeoffs, can in principle be applied to any trait of interest and we welcome collaborations on various topics in medicine and public health.