In my opinion, the fact that Amerindians evolved in a Mongoloid direction may suggest one of three things:
- proto-Mongoloid traits were present as tendencies in the founding population, and they evolved in parallel in the Americas and in East Asia
- proto-Mongoloid traits were absent in the founding population, and they evolved independently in the Americas
- proto-Mongoloid traits were absent in the founding population, but they were added by limited gene flow from Asia
Why the type became so successful remains to be seen; adaptive explanations for a rounder skull, flatter face, and heavy eyelids have been proposed as responses to extreme arctic cold, but why would similar phenotypes be selected for in regions of less extreme climate?
Sexual selection might play a role, although it would be difficult to establish over such a large area.
My guess is that various aspects of the Mongoloid pattern existed in low frequency or as isolated tendencies across East Eurasia and America. As populations grew during the Holocene, these traits spread in a wider range. Naturally, in the periphery, their blending was incomplete, with different quasi-Mongoloid types emerging there, e.g., prominent-nosed, round-headed Amerindians vs. flat-nosed, long-headed Proto-Uralics.
Thus, ancestral Amerindians either already had, or later received -by limited gene flow- a set of Mongoloid traits from Asia, which were selected for the same reasons as they did in Asia, but the "bottleneck" of the Bering did not allow them to receive the full package of traits.
PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005746
Discrepancy between Cranial and DNA Data of Early Americans: Implications for American Peopling
S. Ivan Perez et al.
Currently, one of the major debates about the American peopling focuses on the number of populations that originated the biological diversity found in the continent during the Holocene. The studies of craniometric variation in American human remains dating from that period have shown morphological differences between the earliest settlers of the continent and some of the later Amerindian populations. This led some investigators to suggest that these groups—known as Paleomericans and Amerindians respectively—may have arisen from two biologically different populations. On the other hand, most DNA studies performed over extant and ancient populations suggest a single migration of a population from Northeast Asia. Comparing craniometric and mtDNA data of diachronic samples from East Central Argentina dated from 8,000 to 400 years BP, we show here that even when the oldest individuals display traits attributable to Paleoamerican crania, they present the same mtDNA haplogroups as later populations with Amerindian morphology. A possible explanation for these results could be that the craniofacial differentiation was a local phenomenon resulting from random (i.e. genetic drift) and non-random factors (e.g. selection and plasticity). Local processes of morphological differentiation in America are a probable scenario if we take into consideration the rapid peopling and the great ecological diversity of this continent; nevertheless we will discuss alternative explanations as well.