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Rapid adaptation to malaria facilitated by admixture in the human population of Cabo Verde.

Abstract

Humans have undergone large migrations over the past hundreds to thousands of years, exposing ourselves to new environments and selective pressures. Yet, evidence of ongoing or recent selection in humans is difficult to detect. Many of these migrations also resulted in gene flow between previously separated populations. These recently admixed populations provide unique opportunities to study rapid evolution in humans. Developing methods based on distributions of local ancestry, we demonstrate that this sort of genetic exchange has facilitated detectable adaptation to a malaria parasite in the admixed population of Cabo Verde within the last ~20 generations. We estimate the selection coefficient is approximately 0.08, one of the highest inferred in humans. Notably, we show that this strong selection at a single locus has likely affected patterns of ancestry genome-wide, potentially biasing demographic inference. Our study provides evidence of adaptation in a human population on historical timescales.

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