Tag Archives | Evolution

Humans May Shrink Significantly In Size As Planet Warms

heightLuckily our elven descendents will have advanced technology to do all the heavy work for them. Via the International Business Times:

Humans will shrink significantly because of man-made climate change if patterns from previous global warming events are followed, a team of scientists from the University of Michigan has said. Mammals decreased in size “substantially” during two ancient global warming events, known as hyperthermals.

Study leader Philip Gingerich found that dwarfing occurred in mammals including primates during the Paleocene-Eocene “thermal maximum period” 55 million years ago. Mammals also shrank in another climate change 53 million years ago.

Jawbones and tooth fossils from early hoofed mammals and primates showed that horses were about the size of small dogs today. Over the following millennia the animals grew back to their pre-warming sizes.

The reason behind the shrinking was not known, although Gingerich said that lower nutritional value of plants in elevated carbon dioxide levels might be a cause.

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Sir David Attenborough: Humans Stopped Evolving Because of Birth Control and Abortion.

human-evolution-by-South-ParkAttenborough says “the plague on Earth” has stopped evolving…

Via Guardian:

Sir David Attenborough has said that he is not optimistic about the future and that people should be persuaded against having large families.

The broadcaster and naturalist, who earlier this year described humans as “a plague on Earth”, also said he believed humans have stopped evolving physically and genetically because of birth control and abortion, but that cultural evolution is proceeding “with extraordinary swiftness”.

“We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 90-95% of our babies that are born. We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were,” he tells this week’s Radio Times.

“Stopping natural selection is not as important, or depressing, as it might sound – because our evolution is now cultural … We can inherit a knowledge of computers or television, electronics, aeroplanes and so on.”

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Men All Have One Common Ancestor

h52FC6105Looks like we’re all related whether you like it or not. That’s good news: I need help painting my house next weekend.

Vi LA Times:

In work made public today in the journal Science, the team of prominent biologists corroborates the idea that modern humanity originated around 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, rather than a million years earlier, as other experts have theorized.

“It suggests we really are an extremely recent species on this planet,” said Yale University biologist Robert L. Dorit, who led the group. “We are definitely rookies . . . noisy, but new.”

The new research also provides additional evidence that modern humans–despite their apparent racial and ethnic differences–all share the same basic genetic makeup. In one section of the chromosome that makes a person male, men around the world are virtually identical, the scientists discovered.

For their analysis, they sequenced a portion of the male sex chromosome that apparently changes quite slowly over the eons.

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Are Humans Meant to Be Monogamous?


Is monogamy best for our survival as a species? Is it a social engineering practice to keep us in tow? Should we all join a sex cult and do whatever/whomever we please?

via Live Science

News of politicians’ extramarital affairs seems to be in no short supply lately, but if humans were cut from exactly the same cloth as other mammals, a faithful spouse would be an unusual phenomenon.

Only 3 percent to 5 percent of the roughly 5,000 species of mammals (including humans) are known to form lifelong, monogamous bonds , with the loyal superstars including beavers, wolves and some bats.

Social monogamy is a term referring to creatures that pair up to mate and raise offspring, but still have flings. Sexually monogamous pairs mate only with one partner. So a cheating husband who detours for a romantic romp yet returns home in time to tuck in the kids at night would be considered socially monogamous.

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Evolutionary Complexity: The Development of Elaborate Structures Without Darwinian Selection



Nice little piece at Scientific American about the evolution of odd-ball structures like the human eyeball:

Charles Darwin was not yet 30 when he got the basic idea for the theory of evolution. But it wasn’t until he turned 50 that he presented his argument to the world. He spent those two decades methodically compiling evidence for his theory and coming up with responses to every skeptical counterargument he could think of. And the counterargument he anticipated most of all was that the gradual evolutionary process he envisioned could not produce certain complex structures.

Consider the human eye. It is made up of many parts—a retina, a lens, muscles, jelly, and so on—all of which must interact for sight to occur. Damage one part—detach the retina, for instance—and blindness can follow. In fact, the eye functions only if the parts are of the right size and shape to work with one another.

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What’s the Next Step in Human Evolution?

imagesColor-changing skins? Giant, unwieldy craniums? Lobotomized smart-phone junkies?

There was also a Daily Mail piece about how humans will eventually evolve beaks. Because why not?

Evolution is obviously a complex process. But it’s also a slow process. This means you can make claims about it and by the time it progresses to the point where you’re proved right or wrong, you’ll be long dead so it won’t matter.

So, in order to not miss a potential bandwagon, what could humans end up being like if current cultural trends and features remain relatively constant over the next few million years? Here are some possibilities.

Keep reading.

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Fruits and Veggies Can Be “Trained” to Defend against Herbivores

attack_of_the_killer_tomatoesJane J. Lee writes at National Geographic:

A study published online today in the journal Current Biology found that store-bought cabbage, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, and blueberries respond to light-dark cycles up to about a week after harvest.

And when the produce was kept on the same light-dark cycle as a predator—cabbage looper moth caterpillars (Trichoplusia ni)—it was better able to resist attacks.

Circadian clocks tell plants when the seasons change due to variations in day length, saidJanet Braam, a plant biologist at Rice University in Houston, Texas. But the clock is also critical in plant defenses against insects.

“[Plants] know when the insects eat,” said Braam, who is a co-author on the recent study, “so they can prepare a defense in advance.”

Braam and colleagues knew that levels of protective compounds called glucosinolates were under the control of the circadian clock in a plant called Arabidopsis.

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What Will Humanity Look Like In 100,000 Years?

look like in 10,000 years

Obviously, this rendering is largely speculation, but I agree that humanity will likely spend the foreseeable future trying to turn ourselves into anime characters. Via the New York Daily News:

In 100,000 years, people might have larger heads and sideways-blinking oversized Disney eyes that glow green with cat-like night vision. At least, that is what two researchers say could happen in “one possible timeline.”

Artist Nickolay Lamm teamed up with computational geneticist Alan Kwan to envision a future where zygotic genome engineering technology develops to the point where humans will be able to control their own evolution.

This ability, the team says, could result in more facial features that humans find intrinsically attractive: strong lines, straight nose, intense eyes and perfect symmetry. Kwan thinks that the human head might expand to accommodate a larger brain.

But perhaps their most remarkable conjecture is that future humans could start to blink sideways like owls to “protect from cosmic ray effects,” they added.

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You’ve Got Chimp Feet. Maybe.

03Well, I’ll be a monkey’s podiatrist…

Via New Scientist:

YOU may be walking on chimp-like feet without knowing it. At least 1 in 13 of us have feet that are specially adapted for climbing trees.

Textbooks will tell you that the human foot is rigid, which allows more efficient walking. Other apes, in contrast, have flexible feet better suited to grasping branches as they move through the trees. But the textbooks are wrong, say Jeremy DeSilva and Simone Gill at Boston University.

The pair asked 400 adults to walk barefoot around the Boston Museum of Science while they filmed their feet. This revealed that 8 per cent of people have some mid-foot flexibility, rather like that seen in tree-dwelling apes (American Journal of Physical Anthropology, doi.org/mmh). In another, soon-to-be-published analysis, Robin Huw Crompton at the University of Liverpool, UK, found that a flexible mid-foot may be even more common than DeSilva and Gill suggest.

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Could Humanity Have Descended From Aquatic Apes?

aquatic apesAre we all on team aqua ape? The admittedly far-fetched theory posits that certain key traits hint that humanity’s ape ancestors spent significant time in the water. Complete Genomics writes:

A controversial theory that humans evolved from amphibious apes has won new support. The aquatic ape theory, whose supporters include David Attenborough, suggests that apes emerged from the water, lost their fur, started to walk upright and then developed big brains.

While it has been treated with scorn by some scientists since it first emerged 50 years ago, it is backed by a committed group of academics, including Sir David. The group will hold a major London conference next week.

One of the organizers, Peter Rhys Evans told the Observer that humans are very different from other apes, as we lack fur, walk upright, have big brains and subcutaneous fat and have a descended larynx – which is common among aquatic animals.

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