Human Adaptability
ANT 475/575
Dr. Bindon
[Home | Discussion | Paper]
[ Department of Anthropology | College of Arts and Sciences | University of Alabama ]


January 5

Orientation to the course, how to write a research paper

See papers from the last class here


January 12

Introduction to the concept of adaptation in an anthropological perspective
  1. Frisancho AR (1993) Chapter 1
  2. Harris M 1966. The cultural ecology of India's sacred cattle.  Current Anthropology, 7:51-66.

January 19

Continuing Concepts of Adaptation (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
  1. Baker PT (1984)  The adaptive limits of human populations. Man, 19:1-14.

  2. Mazess RB (1975)  Biological adaptation: aptitudes and acclimatization.  In Watts ES, Johnston FE, and GW Lasker (eds), Biosocial Interrelations in Population Adaptation.  The Hague, Mouton Press, pp. 9-18.


January 26

Human Evolution and Adaptation
  1. Bogin B 1999 Evolutionary perspective on human growth.  Annual Review of Anthropology, 28:109-153.
  2. Richmond BG, Begun DR, Strait DS. 2001.  Origin of human bipedalism: The knuckle-walking hypothesis revisited. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 116(S33):70-105.

February 2

Home, sick--yuck!

February 9

Human Ecology, Demography and Adaptation
  1. Thomas RB, Gage TB, and Little MA (1989) Reflections on adaptive and ecological models. In Little MA, and Haas JD (eds): Human Population Biology: A Transdisciplinary Science. London, Oxford University Press, pp. 296-319.
  2. McElroy A. 1990. Biocultural Models in Studies of Human Health and Adaptation.  Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 4:243-265.

February 16

Natural Selection and Adaptation: Population genetics, Sickle Cell, G6PD
  1. Green L (1993) G6PD deficiency as protection against falciparum malaria: an epidemiologic critique of population and experimental studies. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 36:153-178.

February 23

Skin Color
  1. Frisancho AR (1993) Chapters 6, 7
  2. RESEARCH PAPER DUE:  Refer to Rules for Writing Research Papers
  3. Click here to see papers

March 2

Heat and Cold Stress
  1. Frisancho AR (1993) Chapters 2 - 5
  2. Bindon JR, and Baker PT. 1997. Bergmann's rule and the thrifty genotype.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 104:201-210.
  3. Exam will be available here.

March 9

First Exam due by e-mail by 2:00 p.m.; No Class

March 16

Discuss Exam, Altitude
  1. Frisancho AR (1993) Chapters 8 - 12
  2. Reviews of papers must be submitted by class time

March 23

Nutrition and adaptation
  1. Frisancho AR (1993) Chapters 13 - 16

March 30


April 6

Disease and Adaptation: Infectious Disease, Chronic Disease
  1.  Frisancho AR (1993) Chapters 17 - 18.

    Cockburn TA 1971. Infectious diseases in ancient populations. Current Anthropology, 12:45-62.

    Lindenbaum S 2001. Kuru, prions, and human affairs: Thinking about epidemics. Annual Review of Anthropology, 30:363-385.



April 13

Anatomy of an adaptation study: Samoa
  1. Bindon JR (1997) Coming of age of human adaptation studies in Samoa. In Huss-Ashmore R, and Ulijaszek S (eds): Human Adaptation. Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 126-156.

April 20

Presentations due by Noon, Tuesday April 20:

April 27


May 4

Second Exam due by e-mail by 11:30 a.m.
  1. Exam will be available here

READINGS: All readings are to be completed prior to the class date for which they are assigned. The main text is available at the book store.  It is: Frisancho, AR (1993) Human Adaptation and Accommodation, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.  Readings other than those found in Frisancho are available in room 10.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course provides a detailed introduction to the study of how humans adapt to their physical, biological, and social environment. The principal aims of the course are as follows:

  1. To review, evaluate, and criticize adaptive models from ecology, demography, genetics, physiology, nutrition, and medicine.
  2. To consider theoretical and methodological issues in the anthropological study of human adaptation by focusing on case studies in various populations.
  3. To gain experience in preparing and making public presentations.
  4. To practice writing a scientific research paper starting with searching for a topic, finding and critically reviewing source material, outlining the paper, and finally writing and revising the manuscript.

This course carries "W" designation, therefore writing proficiency is required for a passing grade. Aside from the paper outline each writing assignment, including the two exams, requires carefully edited prose and will be graded for intellectual content, originality, comprehension of reading material, coherence, logic, organization, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and prose style. The course grade will be determined by scores on the two take-home exams, the various components of the research paper, the in-class presentation, and participation in class. Writing proficiency is an absolute requirement for passing this course. The course assignments and their contribution to your grade are listed below.

Paper: The paper will be a research paper to be based on an area of interest chosen by you in consultation with me. There are several elements to the paper grade, and a different deadline is relevant to each element--these dates are not negotiable.  Failure to meet a deadline will be penalized by reducing the grade on the late element of your paper by one letter grade per weekday. We will follow the author's guide for the American Journal of Physical Anthropology for format and for how to cite references.   Finally the paper will become the basis for the presentation to the class. The deadlines and elements of the paper, as well as the rest of the graded parts of the course are as follows:

Components of Course Grade


Percent of Grade

Paper:  In this assignment each student will write a paper based on the topic chosen in consultation with Dr. Bindon, using at least eight references for ANT 475 and at least 12 references for ANT 575/676.  This paper is to be as fully developed as possible, following all of the rules noted on our web site.  Careful attention must be paid to all of the elements of good writing including spelling, grammar, punctuation, and style.    The student will not pass this assignment unless the level of writing proficiency is adequate.

See the rules on how to write the paper: Paper Rules


Exam One: Each exam will combine conceptual and factual knowledge, and will involve writing essays to demonstrate familiarity with the concepts covered. The exams will be based on all course materials including lectures, readings, and class discussion. Exam questions will be pre-circulated and submitted by e-mail. When writing the exams please be Concise, Complete, and Correct. Writing skills will be graded as well as the content of the answers.


Paper: In this assignment each student will submit the revised paper. Careful attention must be paid to all comments on the previous draft and to the elements of good writing including spelling, grammar, punctuation, and style. The student will not pass this assignment unless the level of writing proficiency is adequate.


Presentation: Each student will make a presentation based on his/her research paper.  Elements to consider include logical organization, clarity of speech, visual aids, and ability to engage the interest of the class.


Exam Two: Covers the readings and class discussion since Exam One.


Participation: participation will be established by demonstration of preparedness for class, especially by oral participation during class.


Some examples of research papers:

The Changing Nature of Inuit Nutrition and Dietary Patterns

An Adaptationist Approach to Pregnancy Sickness

Modern Epidemic of American Indians in the United States

Kuru: The Dynamics of a Prion Disease

Figuring Belief Systems and Meaning As Adaptive or Maladaptive Mechanisms In Understanding Psychosocial Stress

Additional help in writing anthropological research papers is also available from Dr. Murphy's site which goes from the literature search to many additional rules of writing.

Date this page last edited: February 10, 2005
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