Hyper Evolution -- Human Population Growth is Accelerating Species Change
- URL to an article from Daily Galaxy
First few paragraphs
"We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than
they were different from Neanderthals."
John Hawks -- University of Wisconsin anthropologist
In a fascinating discovery that counters a common theory that human
evolution has slowed to a crawl or even stopped in modern humans, a study
examining data from an international genomics project describes the past 40,000
years as a time of supercharged evolutionary change, driven by exponential
population growth and cultural shifts.
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Thanks to stunning advances in sequencing and deciphering DNA in recent
years, scientists had begun uncovering, one by one, genes that boost
evolutionary fitness. These variants, which emerged after the Stone Age, seemed to
help populations better combat infectious organisms, survive frigid
temperatures, or otherwise adapt to local conditions.
The findings may lead to a very broad rethinking of human evolution,
especially in the view that modern culture has essentially relaxed the need for
physical genetic changes in humans to improve survival.
A team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison anthropologist John Hawks
estimated that positive selection just in the past 5,000 years alone --
dating back to the Stone Age -- has occurred at a rate roughly 100 times higher
than any other period of human evolution. Many of the new genetic
adjustments are occurring around changes in the human diet brought on by the advent
of agriculture, and resistance to epidemic diseases that became major
killers after the growth of human civilizations.
"In evolutionary terms, cultures that grow slowly are at a disadvantage,
but the massive growth of human populations has led to far more genetic
mutations," says Hawks. "And every mutation that is advantageous to people has
a chance of being selected and driven toward fixation. What we are catching
is an exceptional time."
While the correlation between population size and natural selection is
nothing new -- it was a core premise of Charles Darwin, Hawks says -- the
ability to bring quantifiable evidence to the table is a new and exciting
outgrowth of the Human Genome Project.
(Just a pawn on the great chessboard of life)
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