Tibetans Evolved to Survive at Higher Altitudes

A new study suggests that ethnic Tibetans have certain evolutionary advantages that help them survive at higher altitudes. Among other traits, they have lower hemoglobin levels than non-Tibetans. This is a significant advantage when living at higher altitudes:

"Usually, if you or I or any nonadapted person went to high altitude, we would increase our hemoglobin levels to compensate for the low amount of oxygen."

But high hemoglobin levels have been linked to complications such as hypertension and chronic mountain sickness, Simonson said.

These negative effects could have led to a genetic mutation among Tibetans that "prevented them from making as much" hemoglobin, she noted.[...]

Several variants of genes associated with high-altitude living, such as those that process oxygen, were found in Tibetans but not in their low-living neighbors. That includes the two genes that are strongly associated with low hemoglobin production.


Tibetans also tend to have wider blood vessels and take more breaths per minute.

Link | Photo: Lynn Johnson, National Geographic

UPDATE: If you're curious about the identity of the rifle held by the Tibetan man in the picture, James Rummel is holding a discussion on it.

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But dear Abdul, those terrible westerners you so deride are in turn descended from humans who survived more than mere high elevation, they survived the unparalleled-in-human-history harshness and duration of the European ice age, a selective force that forged the beauty of the fair-haired western women your kind covets (and in Scandinavia, rapes), and which forged the genetic genius behind the discovery of chemistry, the architecture of the atom, the transistor, the heart transplant, radio communication, intercontinental flight, existentialism, classical music, vaccination, endangered species protection, DNA, neuro-electrical impulses, Kermit the Frog, wheelchairs, lasers, robotic prosthetics, space travel, etc.

The human beings whose death you relish in are never self-styled heroes or conquerers of anything but challenge, and its very personal, mental, internal analogues. As with their participation in the first summits (all by westerners) of the mighty Himalayan peaks, it is MONEY that compels the Sherpas to offer a body-recovery service, and western technology that eases their path. And it is hatred borne from ENVY that drives your commentary.
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Every decade or so, a team of Himalayans are put in charge of taking down the corpses of failed climbers. I find it humorous to think that a deed wrapped up in so many romantic notions of heroic conquest for many westerners only leads to a rather routine and unsentimental clean-up job for the high elevation-acclimated natives.
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