Skip to main content


Leslie, Paul W. & Little, Michael A. (2003). Human Biology and Ecology: Variation in Nature and the Nature of Variation. American Anthropologist, 105(1), 28-37.


Human biology seeks to understand human variation and the biological, environmental, social, and historical influences on that variation. Views of the nature of both variation and environment have changed during the past 100 years. Typological approaches to nature and human diversity shifted to an evolutionary perspective during the first half of the 20th century. In the second half, widespread human biological variation was documented and interpreted in terms of adaptation to the environment. Environmental physiology and reproductive ecology continue to document environmental influences on human biological functioning, but with (1) an expanded concept of environment that acknowledges more fully the interactions among its physical, biotic, and social aspects and (2) an expanded theoretical basis, drawing on evolutionary ecology and life history theory, acknowledging tradeoffs and changing constraints and opportunities over the lifetime. Human biology gains from greater interaction with other fields, such as political ecology, but also contributes to them.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Anthropologist


Leslie, Paul W.
Little, Michael A.