Percent of oxygen saturation of arterial hemoglobin among Bolivian Aymara at 3,900-4,000 m

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1999 Jan;108(1):41-51. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199901)108:1<41::AID-AJPA2>3.0.CO;2-K.


A range of variation in percent of oxygen saturation of arterial hemoglobin (SaO2) among healthy individuals at a given high altitude indicates differences in physiological hypoxemia despite uniform ambient hypoxic stress. In populations native to the Tibetan plateau, a significant portion of the variance is attributable to additive genetic factors, and there is a major gene influencing SaO2. To determine whether there is genetic variance in other high-altitude populations, we designed a study to test the hypothesis that additive genetic factors contribute to phenotypic variation in SaO2 among Aymara natives of the Andean plateau, a population geographically distant from the Tibetan plateau and with a long, separate history of high-altitude residence. The average SaO2 of 381 Aymara at 3,900-4,000 m was 92+/-0.15% (SEM) with a range of 84-99%. The average was 2.6% higher than the average SaO2 of a sample of Tibetans at 3,800-4,065 m measured with the same techniques. Quantitative genetic analyses of the Aymara sample detected no significant variance attributable to genetic factors. The presence of genetic variance in SaO2 in the Tibetan sample and its absence in the Aymara sample indicate there is potential for natural selection on this trait in the Tibetan but not the Aymara population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Altitude*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bolivia
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Indians, South American / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oximetry*
  • Oxygen / analysis*
  • Phenotype


  • Hemoglobins
  • Oxygen