88266 - Human Adaptive Interactions to Changing Environment

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Docente: Marco Sazzini
  • Credits: 6
  • SSD: BIO/08
  • Language: English
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Sciences and Management of Nature (cod. 9257)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will acquire knowledge on the distribution of human biodiversity all over the world and on the main adaptive processes that have influenced it by shaping patterns of phenotypic and molecular variation of human populations. In particular, it will be explored how the occupation of different and changing environments by modern humans has prompted ecological and cultural shifts that introduced novel selective pressures impacting on the human genome. Moreover, special attention will be deserved to the discussion of cases in which ecological and cultural contexts have changed so rapidly in the modern era to trigger adaptive traits previously shaped by natural selection into maladaptive ones. Accordingly, the course will also provide to the students elements useful for the understanding of the evolutionary causes of differential susceptibilities of human populations to complex diseases.

Course contents

The course will present the main theoretical models developed so far to describe the processes by which human populations have biologically adapted to a variety of environmental conditions. Morevoer, it will describe patterns of molecular and phenotypic variation that underlie some of the most well-studied human adaptive traits. Finally, evidence supporting dis-adaptive processes undergone by present-day human populations due to rapid changes occurred in their environmental and/or cultural contexts will be presented.

The course contents will be organized according to the following arguments:

1. Introduction to evolutionary principles 

2. Processes enabling human biological adaptation to environmental settings

3. Contextualization of human adaptive traits in the overall landascape of human biodiversity

4. Case studies describing adaptive processes of human populations in response to environmental stresses

5. Case studies describing dis-adaptive processes of human populations due to rapid environmental/cultural changes


Scientific articles and review papers focused on the main arguments discussed during the course will be provided to the students

Teaching methods

Lectures and seminars are scheduled

Assessment methods

The mark will be obtained by means of a one-hour written exam made up of a combination of multiple-choice and open questions

Teaching tools

Slides of the lectures and scientific papers will be shared with the students by means of dedicated tools (e.g. Virtuale, Microsoft Teams)

Office hours

See the website of Marco Sazzini


Good health and well-being Climate Action Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.