Evolutionary Ethnobiology


Ethnobiology is a discipline that deals with understanding the relationship between human beings and biota. The strong interdisciplinary component of ethnobiology allows it to interact with different fields of knowledge. The evolutionary approach in ethnobiology is not completely absent; however, it lacks systematisation, which has been recently proposed. From this proposal, the evolutionary ethnobiology emerged. This approach studies the relations between human groups and biota from theoretical scenarios of ecology and evolution. This article presents the evolutionary ethnobiology, its key concepts, the theoretical scenarios with which it dialogues and the main findings of the recent investigations in this approach.

Key Concepts

  • Evolutionary ethnobiology seeks the understanding of people–biota interactions from ecological and evolutionary scenarios.
  • The field has an interdisciplinary nature in order to dialogue with scenarios from different disciplines, such as cultural evolution, evolutionary psychology and niche construction theory.
  • Evolutionary ethnobiology deals with theoretical scenarios related to biological evolution and cultural evolution, usually seeking the association of both.
  • This scientific field studies not only the structure and dynamics of social–ecological systems but also the forms and biases of cultural learning related to these systems.
  • The adaptive strategies present in human populations, whether they are genetically fixed or products of cultural evolution, are usually based on obtaining security in the use of natural resources.

Keywords: human ecology; ethnoecology; biological evolution; cultural evolution; evolutionary psychology


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Further Reading

Albuquerque UP , Medeiros PM and Casas A (2015c) Evolutionary Ethnobiology. New York: Springer.

Johns T (1990) With bitter herbs they shall eat it: chemical ecology and the origins of human diet and medicine. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Saslis‐Lagoudakis CH , Hawkins JA , Greenhill SJ , et al. (2014) The evolution of traditional knowledge: environment shapes medicinal plant use in Nepal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20132768.

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Ferreira Júnior, Washington Soares, de Medeiros, Patricia Muniz, and Albuquerque, Ulysses Paulino(Jan 2019) Evolutionary Ethnobiology. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0028232]