Human Culture and Evolution

Natural selection is driven by culture according to this article in the NY Times:

But other genes seem to have been favored because of cultural changes. These include many genes involved in diet and metabolism and presumably reflect the major shift in diet that occurred in the transition from foraging to agriculture that started about 10,000 years ago.

Amylase is an enzyme in the saliva that breaks down starch. People who live in agrarian societies eat more starch and have extra copies of the amylase gene compared with people who live in societies that depend on hunting or fishing. Genetic changes that enable lactose tolerance have been detected not just in Europeans but also in three African pastoral societies. In each of the four cases, a different mutation is involved, but all have the same result — that of preventing the lactose-digesting gene from being switched off after weaning.

Many genes for taste and smell show signs of selective pressure, perhaps reflecting the change in foodstuffs as people moved from nomadic to sedentary existence. Another group under pressure is that of genes that affect the growth of bone. These could reflect the declining weight of the human skeleton that seems to have accompanied the switch to settled life, which started some 15,000 years ago.

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2 responses to “Human Culture and Evolution

  1. Wow, amazing the adaptability of the human body. This is very interesting. It is also amazing how these kind of things can be determined. Mind boggling to me.

  2. This makes me think about the “phenomenon” of growth hormones in milk and how it affects the drinkers of mass dairy farming. Have you read anything about this? I will look some stuff up and post.

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