Ancient Britons rapidly evolved to cope with lack of sunlight

The DNA of people who lived in Great Britain thousands of years ago has markers of natural selection at work – and the driving force seems to have been a shortage of vitamin D

Humans 29 March 2022

Bronze age settlement

An artist’s impression of a Bronze age settlement

Lennart Larsen/Nationalmuseet

Natural selection was at work on Bronze Age Britons, ancient DNA reveals. Within the past 4500 years, evolution has acted on genes involved in the production of vitamin D – which people living in Britain are sometimes short of due to a lack of sunlight for much of the year.

The genetic changes have had knock-on effects on other traits, from the ability of people to
digest milk to their skin colour.

One of the ways evolutionary change can happen is through natural selection: …

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