Saturday, October 08, 2011

Are Humans Still Evolving?

A recent study suggests that humans aren't exempt from evolutionary pressures. Despite using culture and technology as ways of adapting to new environments, humans, like all other living things on Earth, undergo genetic changes as a response to conditions around them -- or in this case, favorable traits in their genes.
In other words, we're all still evolving.
Most discussion about our evolutionary history focuses on macroevolution, or changes occurring over long periods of time, including why our teeth are smaller when compared with our ancestors' and how our species may have interacted with Neanderthals.
NEWS: What's Punctuated Equilibrium?
Instead, the study's authors provide an example of microevolution, or changes tracked in a few generations. The team, led by Canadian researchers, studied the small island town of Ile aux Coudres, located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Quebec.
Researchers looked at church records from 1799 to 1940, which provided detailed accounts of marriages, births and deaths. Because the vast majority of families have remained on the island with few newcomers arriving, it was possible to build extensive family trees from the demographic data. The team studied the age at which women are capable of giving birth, a trait that's heritable between generations. Read More