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Are you evolving or mutating?

The Theory of Evolution is essentially saying that random mutations occur from time to time and when such mutations may give an advantage for survival or procreation in a given environment, they will be passed on in the gene pool. That’s the fundamental premise of the theory.

And this still happens.

Granted, our medical science is advanced and we now control our biology to a certain degree. That means that some genetic deficiencies that would otherwise have been eradicated in the game of survival and procreation, will continue almost unhindered … and this obviously effect how we evolve, but it does not overrule or even counteract what the Theory of Evolution say.

However, mutations that still do give us benefits in for example procreation will indeed still be passed on in the gene pool. And so, despite medical advancement, the premise of the Theory of Evolution is as strong as ever.

Humans are still ‘evolving’ and Mutating right now, but it is no longer ‘natural’ evolution that is occurring.

For the most part, humans are now evolving in accordance with human selection, rather than ‘natural’ selection. Humans themselves determine who lives and who dies, and thus determines which genes continue to the next generation.

It’s not only humans who are caught up in this. Dogs, cats, chickens, cows, sheep, goats, horses, etc. are ‘evolving’ in accordance with human preferences.

Examples of Human Evolution happening Now!

It’s not just oral surgeons who are removing wisdom teeth (third molars) from human mouths —evolution is playing a part too. On our evolutionary road to becoming humans, our big brains crowded our skulls and narrowed our jaws, making it difficult for the third row of molars to emerge from the gums.

And after we began cooking our food and developed agriculture thousands of years ago, our diet became softer. This switch to soft grains and starches required less strenuous chewing than our past hunter-gatherer diet. This meant our jaw muscles didn’t grow as strong as they used to, keeping the wisdom teeth beneath the gums increasing the risk of painful and deadly infection.

A few thousand years ago, a mutation popped up that prevented wisdom teeth from growing at all. Now one in four people are missing at least one wisdom tooth. 

Scientists in Australia believe that humans are undergoing a micro-evolution in which evolutionary changes can be observed over a short period of time.

The artery forms while a baby is in the womb and is the main vessel that supplies blood to the forearm and hand, but it usually disappears during gestation and is replaced by the radial and ulnar arteries. However, some people retain all three.

Since the 18th Century, anatomists have been studying the prevalence of this artery in adults and our study shows it’s clearly increasing,” said Dr Lucas.

“The prevalence was around 10 per cent in people born in the mid-1880s compared to 30 per cent in those born in the late 20th Century, so that’s a significant increase in a fairly short period of time, when it comes to evolution,” she said

But increasing numbers of cases retain it, so a person can have all three arteries,” the authors wrote. “People born 80 years from now will all carry a median artery if the trend continues.”

Dr Lucas said the study demonstrates that humans are evolving at a faster rate than at any point in the past 250 years.

Humans are also adapting to their environment. Mutations allowing humans to live at high altitudes have become more common in populations in Tibet, Ethiopia, and the Andes. The spread of genetic mutations in Tibet is possibly the fastest evolutionary change in humans, occurring over the past 3,000 years. This rapid surge in frequency of a mutated gene that increases blood oxygen content gives locals a survival advantage in higher altitudes, resulting in more surviving children.

Diet is another source for adaptations. Evidence from Inuit DNA shows a recent adaptation that allows them to thrive on their fat-rich diet of Arctic mammals. Studies also show that natural selection favoring a mutation allowing adults to produce lactase – the enzyme that breaks down milk sugars – is why some groups of people can digest milk after weaning. Over 80 per cent of northwest Europeans can, but in parts of East Asia, where milk is much less commonly drunk, an inability to digest lactose is the norm. Like high altitude adaptation, selection to digest milk has evolved more than once in humans and may be the strongest kind of recent selection.

Blue eyes are another recent-evolved trait and scientists have determined it came from a mutation in a single ancestor 6,000-10,000 years ago.

The mutation affected the O2AC gene, which codes the protein necessary for producing melanin, which gives our skin, hair and eyes their color. This essentially “switched off” the ability to have brown eyes by limiting the melanin produced in the iris, and “diluting” the eye color from brown to blue.

We think pretty highly of our brains, but it turns out they’ve actually been shrinking for more than 20,000 years. The total change adds up to a piece the size of a tennis ball in an adult male. But scientists don’t think that means we’re getting dumber.( Not always sure about that.)

One theory is that each of us relies more on the structure of society to help us get by, so we don’t need as much brain space as individuals. But as we’ve domesticated animals like cats and dogs, we’ve watched their brains shrink too. That means some scientists think smaller brains may actually mark more peaceful animals.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, the average height of Dutch soldiers was 165 cm, well below European and American averages. However, 150 years later, the Dutch gained an average of 20 cm while the Americans only 6 cm. This is due to the fact that tall Dutchmen on average had more children than those who were short, as Dutchwomen found them more attractive, and that while tall Dutchwomen on average had fewer children than those of medium heights, they did have more children than those who were short. Things like good nutrition and good healthcare did not play as important a role as biological evolution. By contrast, in some other countries such as the United States, for example, men of average height and short women tended to have more children.

Alcohol flush reaction, also known as the “Asian glow,” is not only a real thing, it’s also a recently evolved trait that may protect East Asian populations from a deadly cancer.

In about 36% of East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans), drinking alcohol causes facial flushing and nausea. This is due to a deficiency in the enzyme known as ALDH2.

While this may cause some social challenges amidst peers of more heavy-drinking ancestries, it’s an important indicator of a serious health risk. People with an ALDH2 deficiency are also at greater risk of developing esophageal cancer from drinking alcohol. Curiously, scientists believe this mutation occurred after the development of agriculture — which made producing alcohol possible.

Scientists in the UK recently reported that a bone that was thought to be lost to evolution is making a comeback. The little bone, known as the fabella (little bean), is found at the back of the knee – if it is found at all. The scientists discovered that people were nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to have the bone in 2000 than in 1900. Its exact purpose, however, remains a mystery.

So you are a mutant that is busy evolving have fun with it.

Photo by Marcin Dampc on Pexels.com

3 comments

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