The evolution of traditional knowledge

environment shapes medicinal plant use in Nepal

C. Haris Saslis-Lagoudakis, Julie A. Hawkins, Simon J. Greenhill, Colin A. Pendry, Mark F. Watson, Will Tuladhar-Douglas, Sushim R. Baral, Vincent Savolainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Traditional knowledge is influenced by ancestry, inter-cultural diffusion and interaction with the natural environment. It is problematic to assess the contributions of these influences independently because closely related ethnic groups may also be geographically close, exposed to similar environments and able to exchange knowledge readily. Medicinal plant use is one of the most important components of traditional knowledge, since plants provide healthcare for up to 80% of the world's population. Here, we assess the significance of ancestry, geographical proximity of cultures and the environment in determining medicinal plant use for 12 ethnic groups in Nepal. Incorporating phylogenetic information to account for plant evolutionary relatedness, we calculate pairwise distances that describe differences in the ethnic groups' medicinal floras and floristic environments. We also determine linguistic relatedness and geographical separation for all pairs of ethnic groups. We show that medicinal uses are most similar when cultures are found in similar floristic environments. The correlation between medicinal flora and floristic environment was positive and strongly significant, in contrast to the effects of shared ancestry and geographical proximity. These findings demonstrate the importance of adaptation to local environments, even at small spatial scale, in shaping traditional knowledge during human cultural evolution.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Volume281
Issue number1780
Early online date12 Feb 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2014

Fingerprint

Nepal
indigenous knowledge
medicinal plant
traditional knowledge
Medicinal Plants
Linguistics
medicinal plants
ethnic group
nationalities and ethnic groups
Ethnic Groups
floristics
ancestry
relatedness
flora
Cultural Evolution
health care
health services
phylogenetics
Delivery of Health Care
phylogeny

Keywords

  • ethnobotany
  • anthropology
  • evolution
  • cultural evolution
  • phylogeny

Cite this

Saslis-Lagoudakis, C. H., Hawkins, J. A., Greenhill, S. J., Pendry, C. A., Watson, M. F., Tuladhar-Douglas, W., ... Savolainen, V. (2014). The evolution of traditional knowledge: environment shapes medicinal plant use in Nepal. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences, 281(1780). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.2768

The evolution of traditional knowledge : environment shapes medicinal plant use in Nepal. / Saslis-Lagoudakis, C. Haris; Hawkins, Julie A.; Greenhill, Simon J.; Pendry, Colin A.; Watson, Mark F.; Tuladhar-Douglas, Will; Baral, Sushim R.; Savolainen, Vincent.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 281, No. 1780, 07.04.2014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Saslis-Lagoudakis, CH, Hawkins, JA, Greenhill, SJ, Pendry, CA, Watson, MF, Tuladhar-Douglas, W, Baral, SR & Savolainen, V 2014, 'The evolution of traditional knowledge: environment shapes medicinal plant use in Nepal', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences, vol. 281, no. 1780. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.2768
Saslis-Lagoudakis, C. Haris ; Hawkins, Julie A. ; Greenhill, Simon J. ; Pendry, Colin A. ; Watson, Mark F. ; Tuladhar-Douglas, Will ; Baral, Sushim R. ; Savolainen, Vincent. / The evolution of traditional knowledge : environment shapes medicinal plant use in Nepal. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences. 2014 ; Vol. 281, No. 1780.
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