Natural selection may be growing taller Dutch people

Crowd of Dutch people

The Dutch, represented above by a boisterous crowd of soccer fans,  are the tallest people in the world, and researchers have a theory as to what's driving their continuing growth. 

Александр Осипов/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Dutch have grown in average height by 20 centimeters in the last 200 years. What’s behind the growth spurt?

One team of researchers hypothesizes in the April 8 Proceedings of the Royal Society B that it’s reproductive advantage. By analyzing medical data from a long-term study in the northern Netherlands, the team found an association between height and making babies.

No matter their age, taller men and average-height women were more fertile. Taller women also had more children make it to adulthood. In addition to demystifying Dutch growth, the findings suggest that natural selection can drive human evolution in just a few hundred years.

Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson is the associate digital editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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