Various observations argue for a role of adaptation in recent human evolution, including results from genome-wide studies and analyses of selection signals at candidate genes. Here, we use genome-wide SNP data from the HapMap and CEPH-Human Genome Diversity Panel samples to study the geographic distributions of putatively selected alleles at a range of geographic scales. We find that the average allele frequency divergence is highly predictive of the most extreme F ST values across the whole genome. On a broad scale, the geographic distribution of putatively selected alleles almost invariably conforms to population clusters identified using randomly chosen genetic markers. Given this structure, there are surprisingly few fixed or nearly fixed differences between human populations. Among the nearly fixed differences that do exist, nearly all are due to fixation events that occurred outside of Africa, and most appear in East Asia. These patterns suggest that selection is often weak enough that neutral processes—especially population history, migration, and drift—exert powerful influences over the fate and geographic distribution of selected alleles.
Since the beginning of the study of evolution, people have been fascinated by recent human evolution and adaptation. Despite great progress in our understanding of human history, we still know relatively little about the selection pressures and historical factors that have been important over the past 100,000 years. In that time human populations have spread around the world and adapted in a wide variety of ways to the new environments they have encountered. Here, we investigate the genomic signal of these adaptations using a large set of geographically diverse human populations typed at thousands of genetic markers across the genome. We find that patterns at selected loci are predictable from the patterns found at all markers genome-wide. On the basis of this, we argue that selection has been strongly constrained by the historical relationships and gene flow between populations.