Mrs Wold's Biology

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Are Humans Still Evolving Today?

Posted by Morgan Senger on November 29, 2011

Over thousands of years animals have been continuously evolving, so why aren’t we? Well, the truth is, we actually still are! Recent studies have shown that, yes, humans are still evolving to this day. Research has shown the changes to hundreds of genes in the human genome over the past 10,000 years. One of the most detailed DNA studies was conducted and those results suggest that about 9 percent of human genes are undergoing evolution rapidly.

         Carlos Bustamante, a biologist at Cornell University, suggests that Darwin’s natural selection is still at work and has played an important part in patterning the human genome. His team found that genes that involved in immunity, sperm and egg production, and sensory perception have been most affected. They compared these genes with chimps and figured out that humans have undergone more changes than chimps.

Is our evolution accelerating? Well, it possibly is. Paleoanthropologist John Hawks and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have found evidence of rapid changes with a host of new mutations origination in the last 40,000 years. A recent example of evolutionary change is how most of the world is lactose intolerant, but it never used to be like that. About 7,500 years ago in Europe is when the intolerance to lactose began. When you link evolutionary changes to diet, you find that genes conferring protection against type II diabetes also occurs. Not only are we evolving, but the ecology of humans has been changing
as well.

Is this advance in the human population important? Steve Stearns, a researcher from Yale University,
thinks so. He thinks that the advance is important because it demonstrates a genetic response in selection in a recent, almost contemporary, human population. But what does this advancement in population have to do with us? Well, it is our population among us that is changing and we are changing also.

As our evolution is growing, apparently our brains are not. Over the last 5,000 years or so, the human brain has appeared to be shrinking. Paleoanthropologist John Hawks says they have known the brain has been evolving in human populations quite recently. He even thinks we might not need our brains as much due to the fact of humans being able to rely on others for more things. If all human brains are shrinking, how can we rely on others for information? Our brains have gotten about 10% smaller over the last 5,000 years or so. If this shrinking continues, what could happen in the future to our brains?

Scientists are still heavily studying the subject on which genes are undergoing evolution rapidly since there have been a lot of recent changes. Hopefully in the future our genes will link to the answers we are willing to know about our species. Overall, humans are still evolving and will continue in the years to come.

5 Responses to “Are Humans Still Evolving Today?”

  1.   lukemfall11 Says:

    This blog had a lot of great information that got me curious about the subject, and it also tied us back to our Evolution chapter. I researched the question, “is our evolution accelerating?” and it actually is. This is true because people have been trying to see if there are differences in human genes. And they found out that our genes aren’t the same as our grandparent’s. Henry Harpending, an anthropologist, found out this current evolution has been occurring for the last thousand years or so. This is because a great sudden increase in population makes it easier for everyone to have a slight change of genes.

    http://www.popsci.com/article/2007-12/human-evolution-accelerating

  2.   aliafall11 Says:

    The attention getter is really good. The whole subject is really interesting. Really great information. Also Douglas Ewbank, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania said “Those changes we predict for 2409 could be wiped out by something as simple as a new school-lunch program. But whatever happens, it’s likely that in 2409, Framingham women will be 2 cm shorter and 1 kg heavier than they would have been without natural selection. Evolution is a very slow process. We don’t see it if we look at our grandparents, but it’s there.” So a lot of studies are still going on but all of them basically prove the same thing.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1931757,00.html#ixzz1hDo9Gjhy

  3.   danielbfall11 Says:

    There is still the possibility or room for our brains to evolve but there may be difficulties. One way to know if the brain could evolve is to understand how it evolved in the past. But there are conditions or faults in which the brain does not grow to full proportion. On such thing is microcephaly, a fault in which the brain is much smaller than normal. Researchers believe that the size of a microcephalic brain is roughly similar to that of an early hominid. So in conclusion we have space to grow but we must overcome or we must completely understand before we can proceed.

    http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nervous-system/brain-evolution1.htm

  4.   brycevfall11 Says:

    I’ve been really intrested in the area of human evolution. There’s a lot of different ideas in this area all of which are plausable. One of the one’s I find most interesing is the idea that the human race may seperate into two sub species, similar to George Orwell’s ‘Time Machine’. The two sub-species are thought as an upper and lower class. The upper class will have flourished, being tall, slim, healthy, intelligent, and creative. Whereas a lower class would be oppisite; unitelligent, ugly, and goblin-like creatures. But again, these are only theories. Others say we’re as good as were going to be now, or that we may all meld into one tan, big-eyed human. So, therefore, it’s difficult to answer any questions about the future of human evolution without actually experiencing it firsthand.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6057734.stm

  5.   jordandfall11 Says:

    The blog was very well-written. The style was informative yet interesting, and excellent background information was provided.
    Evolution acceleration in humans is not only shown by the changing anatomy of the body and the size changes of the brain, but also in many physical and nonphysical traits as well. 4 million years ago, bipedalism, or the ability to walk on two feet, occurred. As recent as the past 100,000 years, many cultural evolutions happened, including complex symbolic expression, art, musical instruments, hand tools, and elaborate cultural diversity. Agriculture and the first civilizations came about 12,000 years ago.
    For more information, read this article: http://humanorigins.si.edu/resources/intro-human-evolution

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