A new research paper has identified some of the changes humans have been through over the course of our evolution according to an article in the Washington Post:
The research offers a fascinating snapshot into how the human genome has continued to change as humans adapted to new circumstances over the past 10,000 years. As people went from hunter-gatherers to agricultural societies, for instance, there is evidence of genetic adaptations to new diseases and diets.
Europeans seem to be adapting to the increased availability of dairy products, with genetic changes that allow the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose in milk, to be available throughout life, not just in infancy. Similarly, East Asians show genetic changes that affect the metabolism of the sugar sucrose, while the Yoruba people in sub-Saharan Africa show genetic changes that alter how they metabolize the sugar mannose.
Where starvation was once widespread in humans’ evolutionary history, making it genetically advantageous to conserve calories as much as possible, the abundance of food in many countries today has led to the opposite problem — risk factors and diseases related to metabolic overload, including obesity and diabetes — suggesting these could be areas in which natural selection may currently be active, as genetic variations that help protect against such disorders gain selective advantage.
An utterly facinating read. Of course, it’s a kick in the butt to those who deny the validity of evolution and/or consider humans ‘completely’ evolved – the top of the evolution ladder – as it implies that we are still evolving.
Perhaps a day will come when humans finally come to terms with being “just another” animal, subject to life and all its processes – including evolution.
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