We all know that plants and animals, including people, evolve. Scientists have catalogued hundreds of now dominating genetic changes to our species that have first arisen in the last few thousand years. But important questions remain in this still relatively new field of study, including how often and rapidly such changes can occur, and if there are clear examples of genetic evolution by natural selection at work in our time. A new study by researchers at the University of Quebec has found the most recent known example of natural selection in humans. Importantly, the study suggests that changes in the dominant genes of a human population can occur much more rapidly than many scientists thought possible.
The new study examined well-documented child-bearing patterns on a relatively isolated island community of 30 families from 1799 to 1940. The generally uniform pattern of life on the island offered a largely neutral environment, culturally and socio-economically, permitting researchers to more easily study and statistically isolate genetic effects. The conclusion: a significant genetic change favoring early child-bearing was naturally and progressively selected over the period (evidenced by strong multi-generational mother-daughter transmission of the trait against nearly identical background circumstances across the community).
The new findings reinforce and make quite palpable the basic tenets of evolutionary theory, confirming and reminding us that we are part of the natural world and continually shaped and re-shaped by it. Learn more about the new research at Humans Are Still Evolving or Natural Selection Leaves Fresh Footprints, and about HumanaNatura’s evolutionary-based natural health system at About HumanaNatura.
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