Friday, December 14, 2007

Human Evolution Speeding Up?

Ralph E. Schmid at Time has an article titled Human Evolution Speeding Up? In it he wrote, "People are evolving more rapidly than in the distant past, with residents of various continents becoming increasingly different from one another, researchers say."

Researchers have been discovering the genes and evolution do not always work as we thought we understood them. Evolution can happen quickly. It does not always take thousands of years.

I recently read Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem. In the book, he wrote about jumping genes and retroviruses. Moalem noted, "The capacity of African primates to support the persistent of other viruses may have put our evolution on fast forward by allowing more rapid mutation through exposure to more retroviruses. It's possible that this capacity helped spur our evolution into humans" (p. 153).

Further, Epigenetics is showing that genes can be modified in a generation to deal with issues such as famine. If the gene markers are not turned off after a few generations, the genes can be modified. The Scientist has an article on this titled Epigenetics: Genome, Meet Your Environment.

The article in Time does not deal with all of this but it is interesting. It postulates that evolution is occurring more frequently now due to a larger human population and the fact that humans live in more diverse environments. Schmid wrote, "Harpending and colleagues looked at the DNA of humans and that of chimpanzees, our closest relatives, they report in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If evolution had been proceeding steadily at the current rate since humans and chimps separated 6 million years ago there should be 160 times more differences than the researchers found. That indicates that human evolution had been slower in the distant past."

No comments: