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Old 03-10-2006, 07:15 PM   #1
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Ongoing Evolution of Humanity

PROVIDING the strongest evidence yet that human beings are still evolving, researchers have detected 700 regions of the human genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection, a principal force of evolution, in the past 5000 to 15,000 years.

The genes include some responsible for the senses of taste and smell, digestion, bone structure, skin colour and brain function. Under natural selection, beneficial genes become more common in a population as their owners have more progeny.

Three populations were studied: Africans, East Asians and Europeans. In each, a mostly different set of genes had been favoured by natural selection.

The study may help anthropologists explain the variety of distinctive appearances, even though people's genes are on the whole very similar, said Spencer Wells, the director of the genographic project of the National Geographic Society.

The finding adds substantially to the evidence that human evolution did not halt in the distant past, as is assumed by many social scientists.

"There is ample evidence that selection has been a major driving point in our evolution during the last 10,000 years, and there is no reason to suppose that it has stopped," said Jonathan Pritchard, a population geneticist at the University of Chicago, who headed the study.

He and his colleagues, Benjamin Voight, Sridhar Kudaravalli and Xiaoquan Wen, reported their findings in yesterday's PLoS-Biology, a journal published by the Public Library of Science.

Dr Pritchard estimates that the average era at which the selected genes started to become more common is 10,800 years ago in the African population and 6600 years ago in the Asian and European populations.

The researchers' data is based on DNA changes in three populations gathered by the HapMap project, a venture that built on the decoding of the human genome in 2003.

Fascinating, but by identifying divergences in traits and expression after distribution it is touching upon race issues.

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Old 03-10-2006, 09:30 PM   #2
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there are many things you see every day that are factors of evolution in the last 10,000 years... lactose (in)tolerance, impacted wisdom teeth, skin color, changes in height due to climate, internal changes due to elevation... the list goes on. I don't understand why this is news.

and I've never met a social scientist that thinks evolution halted sometime in the distant past...

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Old 03-11-2006, 07:43 AM   #3
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I would be interested to know, how space colonisation would effect human evolution (im not talking about colonisation of another galaxy), such as a colony on the moon or a large orbiting space station (i know it is quite science fictiony at the moment, just hypothesising), but for instance wouldn't rate of growth be increased for anyone born on the moon? Due to the lesser gravity, the body could grow faster as such...what other ways would the body adapt to such an environment as space?

Please stop me now if im talking off-topicy crap

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Old 03-11-2006, 07:59 AM   #4
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Well I think that any space colonisation would occur at a level of technology where problems associated with the environment could be overcome relatively easily and there wouldn't be terribly strong natural selection, more plausibly (as far as space colonisation plausibility goes) some level of genetic engineering to optimise living in a reduced or zero gravity environment.
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Old 03-11-2006, 08:06 AM   #5
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Evolution continues on its merry way. I remember reading a future-gazing book as a child that surmised our distant descendents may have giant heads and tiny withered bodies, not unlike fetuses. I find that a comforting thought. I want the kids to get a head!
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