Human evolutionary biology

Human evolutionary biology

Human evolutionary biology, the science applying evolutionary concepts to the study of human traits, is relatively recent. In France, human sciences and biology are taught in distinct universities, and research institutions for these fields are also different. The integrated study of interactions between biology and culture is therefore quite uncomfortable. The separation between biological and cultural traits is however scientifically unfounded. The human species is an animal species, and biological aspects cannot be ignored. Indeed, it is also a social species, with extensive cultural features, but biology and culture are constantly interacting: it is only by considering both simultaneously that we will be able to improve the understanding of human behaviour.

Human evolutionary biology consists of using the theoretical and practical tools and advances of evolutionary biology, in order to understand human adaptations, either genetic or cultural. Human evolutionary biology thereby provides a general framework to explain human behaviour.

Specific research interests of the team

Our research concerns aspects of human behaviour that are still puzzling or not fully understood. It is for example the case of cooperative behaviour between non-kin individuals. Could it be an important signal for mate choice? The possible involvement of sexual selection in the evolution of extensive cooperation in humans is investigated.

The existence of heritable traits that are relatively highly prevalent, although decreasing longevity and/or reproductive success, constitutes an intriguing Darwinian paradox. Male homosexual preference is one of those traits that are explored in our team. Similarly, left-handers are present in all human populations, and studying the evolutionary mechanisms of the persistence of left-handedness has been one of our first research aims.

The way human culture evolves is currently a hot topic at the international level, and everything is still to be discovered, for example the transmission of innovations within human groups.

As in many other animal species, humans compete for access to sexual partners. Models are developed in our team in order to understand the rules of mate choice and the complex network of interactions leading to couple formation.

Human families are groups of individuals sharing and important part of their genome and therefore common interests. However, there are also conflicts (first described by Trivers) between family members, due to limited resources, paternity uncertainty and mating systems. Investigating the interactions that are specific to the family (such as conflicts related to paternity uncertainty, competition among siblings) is another of our research objectives.