Pygmies (singular: Pygmy) refers to a member of any human group whose adult males grow to less than 150 cm (4 feet 11 inches) in average height or less than 155 cm. A member of a slightly taller group is termed pygmoid. The best known pygmies are the Aka, Efe and Mbuti of central Africa. There are also pygmies in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and Bolivia. The Negritos were the earliest inhabitants of Southeast Asia. The remains of at least 25 miniature humans, who lived between 1,000 and 3,000 years ago, were found on the islands of Palau in Micronesia.
The term "Pygmy" is often considered degrading. However, there is no single term to replace it that covers all African Pygmies. Many so called pygmies prefer instead to be referred to by the name of their various ethnic groups, or names for various interrelated groups such as the Aka (Mbenga), Baka, Mbuti, and Twa. The term Bayaka, the plural form of the Aka/Yaka, is sometimes used in the Central African Republic to refer to all local Pygmies. Likewise, the Kongo word Bambenga is used in Congo.
The term pygmy, as used to refer to diminutive people, derives from Greek Pygmaioi via Latin Pygmaei (sing. Pygmaeus), a measure of length corresponding to the distance between the elbow and knuckles. (See also Greek pechus). In Greek mythology the word describes a tribe of dwarfs, first described by Homer, and reputed to live in Ethiopia.
Genetically, the eastern Mbuti pygmies are extremely divergent from other human populations, as well as being the shortest of the Pygmy populations, suggesting they have an ancient indigenous lineage. Their closest relatives appear to be the Hadzabe, who live in the savannas east of the forest and were quite short in stature before heavy recent intermarriage with their taller neighbors. Other Pygmy groups which have been genetically tested are not very distinct from their non-Pygmy neighbors, suggesting either that their indigenous ancestry has been diluted through interbreeding with neighboring agricultural populations, or that they have a different ancestry from the Mbuti. Indeed, the genetic mutations responsible for the short stature of the eastern and western Pygmies are different and unrelated, suggesting that they represent independent adaptations to the forest.
There are a number of "Twa" populations along the southern border of Angola and neighboring countries, living in swamps and deserts far from the forest. They are little studied, and it is not known if they are indigenous to the area or more recent migrants from the forest.
Various theories have been proposed to explain the short stature of pygmies: lack of food in the rainforest environment, low calcium levels in the soil, the need to move through dense jungle, as an adaptation to heat and humidity, and most recently, as an association with rapid reproductive maturation under conditions of early mortality.
Ultraviolet light levels are very low in rainforests. This might mean that relatively little vitamin D can be made in human skin, thereby limiting calcium uptake from the diet for bone growth and maintenance. This could lead to the evolution of small skeletal size, that is to a "pygmy".
Pygmies live in several ethnic groups in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. Most Pygmy communities are hunter-gatherers, living partially but not exclusively on the wild products of their environment. They trade with neighbouring farmers to acquire cultivated foods and other material items. It is estimated that there are between 250,000 and 600,000 Pygmies living in the Congo rainforest.
The name "Negrito", from Spanish meaning "little black", was given by early explorers. They assumed the Andamanese they encountered were from Africa. This belief was however discarded by anthropologists who noted that apart from dark skin and curly hair, the Andamanese had little in common with any African population, including the African pygmies.
Frank Kingdon-Ward in the early 20th century, Alan Rabinowitz in the 1990s, P. Christiaan Klieger in 2003, and others have reported a tribe of pygmy Tibeto-Burman speakers known as the T'rung inhabiting the remote region of Mt. Hkakabo Razi in Southeast Asia on the border of China (Yunnan and Tibet), Burma, and India. A Burmese survey done in the 1960s reported a mean height of an adult male T'rung at 1.43 m (4'6") and that of females at 1.40 m (4'5"). These are the only "pygmies" noted of clearly East Asian origin. The cause of their diminutive size is unknown, but diet and endogamous marriage practices have been cited. The population of T'rung pygmies has been steadily shrinking, and is now down to only a few individuals.
Short statured aboriginal tribes inhabited the rainforests of North Queensland, Australia, of which the best known group is probably the Tjapukai of the Cairns area. These rainforest people, collectively referred to as Barrineans, were once considered to be a relict of the earliest wave of migration to the Australian continent, but this theory no longer finds much favour. The Rainforest People tended to live in the first variety of Jykabita, a wood and mud structure renowned for incubation of plants.
Frank Kingdon-Ward in the early 20th century, Alan Rabinowitz in the 1990s, P. Christiaan Klieger in 2003, and others have reported a tribe of pygmy Tibeto-Burman speakers known as the T'rung inhabiting the remote region of Mt. Hkakabo Razi in Southeast Asia on the border of China (Yunnan and Tibet), Burma, and India. A Burmese survey done in the 1960s reported a mean height of an adult male T'rung at 1.43 m (4'6") and that of females at 1.40 m (4'5"). These are the only "pygmies" noted of clearly East Asian origin. The cause of their diminutive size is unknown, but diet and endogamous marriage practices have been cited. The population of T'rung pygmies has been steadily declining, and is now down to only a few individuals.
Pygmy Killer Whales (Feresa attenuata) or False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens)? Identification of a Group of Small Cetaceans Seen off Ecuador in 2003
Jul 01, 2010; Pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata) are a very poorly known species (Donahue & Perryman, 2009; McSweeney et al., 2009), and...