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
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.