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Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolution

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the genetic-not-mental dept.

Science 503

The New York Times is running a Sunday article regarding new evidence about 'recent' human evolution. A research team at the University of Maryland has done some work looking at the rise of lactose tolerance in the human populations of Africa. From the article: "The principal mutation, found among Nilo-Saharan-speaking ethnic groups of Kenya and Tanzania, arose 2,700 to 6,800 years ago, according to genetic estimates, Dr. Tishkoff's group is to report in the journal Nature Genetics on Monday. This fits well with archaeological evidence suggesting that pastoral peoples from the north reached northern Kenya about 4,500 years ago and southern Kenya and Tanzania 3,300 years ago ... Genetic evidence shows that the mutations conferred an enormous selective advantage on their owners, enabling them to leave almost 10 times as many descendants as people without them. The mutations have created 'one of the strongest genetic signatures of natural selection yet reported in humans,' the researchers write. "

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503 comments

No way! (0, Troll)

bigtomrodney (993427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192546)

But evolution didn't happen surely! Jebus put us here just like this! The fossils are lies I tell you!

Re:No way! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192554)

I was going to make a post wondering how long it would take for the religion-bashers to start posting, but it looks like I was beaten by the FP. Good ol' predictable slashbots.

They don't explain WHY (-1, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192594)


But when cattle were first domesticated 9,000 years ago and people later started to consume their milk as well as their meat, natural selection would have favored anyone with a mutation that kept the lactase gene switched on.

Why does natural selection favor lactase? I don't think that gene had any influence at all on natural selection. It's the gene that helped humanity make the gun that had the most influence on natural selection, and the genes associated with the creation of money, religion, and government.

I really don't think it mattered if humans drank milk or not.

Re:They don't explain WHY (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192622)

I really don't think it mattered if humans drank milk or not.

It lets another species do the hard work of converting grass to usable nutrients. Milk is a great source of calcium, with helps keep bones strong.

Milk and survival (5, Insightful)

Dobeln (853794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192742)

Being able to digest milk can be incredibly valuable in an environment where protein and many other nutrients present in milk are scarce (a fair assumption regarding conditions a couple of thousand years back).

But yes, of course smarts can pay off to various degrees in Darwinian terms too, depending on what niche you are looking to fill.

Milk and Honey (0, Troll)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192764)

Be careful, you are dangerously close to saying you DON'T think Jehovah made the world 6000 years ago, and you think humans "evolved" instead of being sprung, fully-developed from the Word of God.

Oh, and don't forget where women came from.

I keep hearing that "evolutionism" or "Darwinism" is just another religion and that there's no real proof of it.

This IS God's own USA after all.

A dangerous and incorrect fallacy (3, Funny)

Dobeln (853794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192856)

I believe this line of reasoning to be mistaken to some degree - evolution of man and squirrel alike indeed continued apace until ~approx 100 000 years ago, when modern man first left Africa and the laws of evolution ceased to apply to humans, due to the plasticity of spandrels. Hence, positing evolution of humanity is incorrect in timespans extending much further back than a mere 6000 years. After this no evolution whatsoever has taken place among humans, and therefore the article referenced above must be incorrect.

It is hard to determine if this study and many other recent similar ones implying recent evolution in humans are driven by mere ignorance or if more sinister motives are at work. The author referenced here, one Nicholas Wade, is notable for engaging in ideologically dubious activities, such as his recent book "Before the Dawn". He must be watched closely, or his dangerous line of thinking might be allowed to spread among the easily manipulated masses.

Prof. Beata Brattenschlick
Dept. of Deconstruction, University of Copenhagen

References:

"Before the Dawn":
http://www.amazon.com/Before-Dawn-Recovering-Histo ry-Ancestors/dp/1594200793 [amazon.com]

"Breakthrough in human genetics":
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N22205028 .htm [alertnet.org]

Re:A dangerous and incorrect fallacy (3, Insightful)

GrumpySimon (707671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193150)

What - are you going for the incomprehensible babble award? Is the joke wooshing over my head?

evolution of man and squirrel alike indeed continued apace until ~approx 100 000 years ago, when modern man first left Africa and the laws of evolution ceased to apply to humans, due to the plasticity of spandrels.

The "laws of evolution" are still with us, and spandrels are not necessarily plastic. Nor does the presence of spandrels lead to plasticity at all. I think you're just joining evolutionary-sciency words to sound clever.

Hence, positing evolution of humanity is incorrect in timespans extending much further back than a mere 6000 years.

Skin color? This must have arisen in the last 150kya after humans moved out of Africa. I could list other examples, but it's quite obvious you're talking out your arse here.

It is hard to determine if this study and many other recent similar ones implying recent evolution in humans are driven by mere ignorance or if more sinister motives are at work.

Yes. It appears that this study was funded by the evil Dairy-conglomerate to promote milk-drinking behavior.

The author referenced here, one Nicholas Wade, is notable for engaging in ideologically dubious activities

Nicholas Wade [plosjournals.org] is a very well respected science writer. I guess that science could be consided "ideologically dubious" to some.

Re:Milk and Honey (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192866)

Which women?

Eve, lilith (who was obviously evil because she considerd herself an equal of man) or the other one that adam saw being created and was too disgusted to go near after realising she was made of meat.

Or the other tribes the kane and able encountered during their wanderings?

Oh you never bothered to read the Kabbalah? Maybe you ought to check the orignal source material...

There are 2 kinds of people that have read the bible: those that have understood it, and christians.

Re:Milk and Honey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17193010)

Hah hah! Because Christians are teh dumb!!!1

Re:They don't explain WHY (5, Funny)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192752)

Why does natural selection favor lactase?

Because you're far more likely to survive the couple of millenia between domesticating cattle and making your first gun if you can tolerate lactose.

Why?!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17193156)

Because you're far more likely to survive the couple of millenia between domesticating cattle and making your first gun if you can tolerate lactose.


Because, as we all know, history repeats it self. I am going to predict that some time in the far future somebody will post an article on what ever takes up where /. left off about an exciting discovery of recent evolution in humans. Specifically the evolution of extreme lead tolerance and armored bullet proof skin in humans 2,700 to 6,800 years previously.

Inevitably somebody else will ask:

Why does natural selection favor lead resistance and bullet proof skin?

To which some other wiseass will answer:

Because you're far more likely to survive the couple of millenia between domesticating developing the gun and builting your first man portable phaser weapon.

Re:They don't explain WHY (5, Informative)

Monty_Lovering (842499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192776)

Mmmm... I think saying "I really don't think" is quite honest of you, although it is already painfully obvious to most of us here.

Humans originally didn't have the enzymes to digest cow lactose; why should they? It serves no purpose in a hunter-gatherers genome.

Most infants can digest lactose well enough to get by as they are expressing genes at that age to aid in the digestion of human milk, but by age 5 cow milk normally makes a lactose intolerent person puke mucus.

Occasionally through mutation some did have the right enzymes to digest cow lactose through adulthood, but as humans did not keep cows those people had no advantage over other people without the mutation, so the mutation was lost as it had no benefit.

When humans started to keep cows they had access to a new food source, milk.

This would have been used to feed infants to replace or suppliment the mother's milk, probably as part of the weaning process.

As those infants grew older those with tolerence to lactose had access to a renewable food resource denied to those who were intolerent to lactose. Those lactose intolerent infants whose parents kept feeding them milk would have been sickly and malnourished.

There would be such a big ebenfit to lactose tolerence that somethng called 'runaway evolution' took place. It's a bit like how mudskippers evolved; if ten fish of a species in a river survive a drought survive because of x charecteristics only they (in that species) have, after that drought all members of that species have x characteristic.

Similarly with human lactose tolerance the stronger, better fed, healthier members of the population with lactose tolerence would have had way more offspring then those who didn't have the genes for it, and those offsrping would fare better.

If 5% increase in genetic transfer through natural selection can make a new characteristic spread throughout a population in less than 200 generations, think how more quickly one with a much higher advantage might spread.

Guns are part of an extended phenotype, and are NOT subject to genetic transmission. Idiot.

Re:They don't explain WHY (1)

slashmoc (816705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192802)

You've obviously never been in a starvation situation have you? Well for most of their lives, most of your ancestor were...this is why: being able to drink milk as opposed to dying is an advantage. If you could metabolise rocks it would be a good thing.. Are you lactose intolerent? Maybe you're afraid you've been left behind?? Don't worry I've Celiacs in the family so we're a bit behind as well...

Re:They don't explain WHY (5, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193062)

I really don't think it mattered if humans drank milk or not. You can extract 10x calories over the life time of a cow by milking it and finally eating the old dead cow, instead of killing it young and eating it immediately. Those people who domesticated cattle and milked them developed more organized societies and built empires earlier compared to those who killed and ate every large animal they came across. And thus the ability to drink milk directly led to ability to make steel and eventually guns.

Re:No way! (5, Insightful)

extra the woos (601736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192700)

And it gets modded up.. As insightful at that.. :( Sigh. Note to the OP i don't have anything against you but I wish you wouldn't generalize. Feel free to make fun of the "crazies". It's okay. But don't bring Jesus into stuff like this. He didn't say anything about this kind of thing! His whole existance on this Earth was to set an example as to how we should behave and to give our lives meaning.

I think this is an awesome find. Cool. I look forward to more. Guess what I'm a Christian and obviously believe in Jesus.

As I post in all these threads: I'm for gay marriage, pro choice (though anti abortion I don't feel I can make the choices for others), for legal gambling (we don't live in a theocracy), pro legalized drugs and prostitution (what do you think Mary Magdalene was???) etc.

Slashdot would be a wonderful place if we could lose all the religion bashing.

People on the fringes don't speak for all of us. I don't try to force my views on others. I interest my friends in learning more about my views by: being nice to them and treating them well, and listening when they have problems and trying to help them out whenever I can.

Did you know that if, today, you went and tried to translate the original Genesis story into English today it could have 4 or more meanings? The Bible you read is the most *probable* meaning but it is NOT the only meaning that Moses could have intended when writing it.

Seriously, evolution happens all around us. We know. However, it doesn't necessarily mean God didn't put us here, or any of that Jazz. In fact the two don't really have anything to do with each other at all. The fossil record DOES show species just "appearing" as if they were just created. It also indicates that the Earth is very old. So what? That just indicates that: we have more stuff to figure out about our world. We discover stuff that was previously unkown all the time. Cool. I believe God gave us our mind so we could do as much as we can do understand the world around us. Are we always going to be right? No. But that doesn't mean you are a "dirty sinner" or something if you are.

Humans don't have a full understanding of everything. I'm cool with that. I look forward to learning more about evolution. As we learn more and more about the detail of the universe I think it shows us more and more about how awesome God is for putting it into place.

Re:No way! (2, Informative)

bigtomrodney (993427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192730)

It was a tongue in cheek comment, I actually said Jebus to avoid that interpretation. It was only making fun of the crazies who use his name. I agree it shouldn't have been modded insightful, but hey it certainly wasn't flamebait.

Re:No way! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192916)

I'm for gay marriage, pro choice (though anti abortion I don't feel I can make the choices for others), for legal gambling (we don't live in a theocracy), pro legalized drugs and prostitution (what do you think Mary Magdalene was???) etc.


Good for you. Except that strikes to me as quite a hypocritical view. Maybe you'd like to explain that one item you didn't try explaining? You are for gay marriage even as the bible very clearly condemns homosexuality in several passages. Or do you mean with marriage something else than christian marriage? Like a "registered relationship" etc. In that case I would refrain using the word marriage as it gives wrong impression.

Or maybe you are one of these christians who think that "god's will" should not shape the values of our society, but our societies everchanging values should shape god's will?

Disclaimer: I'm not a christian, but I much more value a christian that practices what his book preaches than a christian that changes his opinion based on what's "hip" in current opinion climate.

Re:No way! (2, Funny)

masklinn (823351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192956)

And it gets modded up.. As insightful at that.. :( Sigh. Note to the OP i don't have anything against you but I wish you wouldn't generalize. Feel free to make fun of the "crazies". It's okay. But don't bring Jesus into stuff like this. He didn't say anything about this kind of thing! His whole existance on this Earth was to set an example as to how we should behave and to give our lives meaning.

You've got some troubles with irony now don't you?

Re:No way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192996)

Hey, who are you to call him a dwarf?

Re:No way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192976)

I think you need to study your Bible a little bit more closely, as it seems you have let your views and the world change your religion, and not your faith change your heart.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth

its funny how every issue you mentioned is condemned in the Bible, yet you turn the other way.

Re:No way! (3, Informative)

eboot (697478) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193112)

Because the very existence of religion creates extremism, and if you want evidence of this then, well, you've got basically the whole of human existence to choose from. More moderate people like you perpetrate the myth that religion can be balanced and forward thinking and therefore religion is allowed to continue existing. In fact for this simple reason alone you are more dangerous than the extremists and however deluded they might be you are more so. To them you are the public face, they are the necessary guards of the core values. And in a sense they are right, you have deluded yourself into believing in a god who is kind, just and fair when your own texts say that there was a lot of 'fire and brimstone' behind him. The true face of religion is divided in half, like that Batman villain, with one half being a serene, kind and gentle visage and the other half a snarling beast. But make no mistake, they are the same entity.

Re: Come to Jebus! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193068)

In the beginning there was MS Word.

Later came Virgin Records.

Jebus has been touring the metropolitan Nebraska area, but their first attempt at a radio single , "Jebus Loves You", hasn't on past the town of Willow Corners.

Speculation, I don't see how it makes a difference (0, Offtopic)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192558)

I'm lactose intolerant, so what?

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (0, Offtopic)

gordonwallace (1026508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192588)

I'm intolerant to a lot of things, lactose isn't one of them

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (-1, Flamebait)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192610)

It's really simple, drinking milk or not really had no influence on human evolution. Humans that couldnt drink milk found something else to eat.

The invention of the gun had more influence on evolution (or de-evolution) than anything else. That one invention went on to cost millions of lives. Whoever invented organized war also, went on to cost us millions if not billions of lives.

Evolution, is self controlled, humans control evolution, nature is not meant to be worshipped.

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (2, Funny)

gordonwallace (1026508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192628)

"Humans that couldnt drink milk found something else to eat." Not to nit pick but when my fridge is out of milk I don't start eating a potatoe, I find something else to DRINK

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192682)

dan quayle - is that you? ;-)

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192754)

This may be the case today, but many peoples in Africa subsist almost entirely off of milk and goat blood. I'm sure this was true five millenia ago as well.

If you are lactose intolerant, you are far less likely to lead a healthy life when almost half your diet consists of milk. It isn't like much of Africa is a limitless plain of abundance.

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192800)

"Humans that couldnt drink milk found something else to eat." - no they didn't they died, and thats the whole fucking point moron.

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192864)

It's really simple, drinking milk or not really had no influence on human evolution

      Says YOU. Tell me, what is it that babies were supposed to drink 6000 years ago? Formula? Diet Coke?

      The problem is that you're looking at this in the wrong context. You're seeing it as an adult, and you're thinking about cow milk.

      The leading cause of death for infants less than 100 years ago in developed nations (and STILL the leading killer today in underdeveloped countries) was diarrhea. How do you get diarrhea? Hmm, lactose intolerance causes - guess? Diarrhea. Baby can't drink breast milk, so you give it something else - something more likely to be contaminated with diarrhea causing viruses. Net result? More diarrhea.

      Who cares if an adult - who has probably already reproduced (this is before birth control remember) dies of diarrhea? Those genes have already been passed on. The important factor here is all those dead babies who never got old enough to pass their genes on. Lactose intolerance has played a MAJOR part in this.

Don't think so. (5, Interesting)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192922)

The leading cause of death for infants less than 100 years ago in developed nations (and STILL the leading killer today in underdeveloped countries) was diarrhea. How do you get diarrhea? Hmm, lactose intolerance causes - guess? Diarrhea. Baby can't drink breast milk, so you give it something else - something more likely to be contaminated with diarrhea causing viruses. Net result? More diarrhea.



Erm. You're confusing general lactose intolerance with adult lactose intolerance.



General lactose intolerance is a bad thing. Any mammal that doesn't tolerate lactose while still nursing is in very deep doodoo. It's a mutation that'll basically kick you out of the gene pool immediately.



Adult lactose intolerance is, for most mammals, a normal thing (which is why you shouldn't give milk to cats/hedgehogs/etc). Adult mammals aren't supposed to seek out sources of milk, for obvious reasons, which is why the production of lactase usually stops once the mammal is old enough to eat real food. Of course, this mechanism evolved loooong before humans got the idea of domesticating goats/sheep/cattle and use the milk of a completely different species to supplement their diet. This made a mechanism that would have been faulty (adult mammal that tolerates lactose) suddenly become a genetic advantage.

Re:Don't think so. (5, Funny)

Manchot (847225) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193044)

Adult mammals aren't supposed to seek out sources of milk

I see about a billion websites that beg to differ...

Ah yes, the exception. (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193088)

I guess you're talking about the one species where the males keep lots of childlike mannerisms even after reaching physical maturity, like tantrums, the obsession with toys and sources of milk, and crawling, toddling and babbling (after consuming too much alcohol). Touché.

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192930)

It's really simple, drinking milk or not really had no influence on human evolution. Humans that couldnt drink milk found something else to eat.

Yeah, because 6000 years ago you could just go down to 7-11 and grab a burrito, right genius? Fact is that you have two populations - one that can eat the enormously nutritious, high-calorie food that comes out of this cow/goat/wildebeast over here, and one population that can't. Guess which one dies first when famine hits, or the grain crop spoils?

Most evolutionary advantages are slight and happen over time. In this case, you have people living in rather arid conditions, some of whom live a whole lot better because they can drink milk. Not hard to figure out, really.

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (4, Insightful)

masklinn (823351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192980)

It's really simple, drinking milk or not really had no influence on human evolution. Humans that couldnt drink milk found something else to eat.

They point is that they often couldn't. Check populations such as the African's Masaï tribe, cows are their lifeline and most of their diet is composed of milk and dairy products and cow blood (for warriors). A masaï suffering from adult lactose intolerance wouldn't reach puberty.

The invention of the gun had more influence on evolution (or de-evolution) than anything else.

No it didn't, guns haven't yet generated any new evolutionary path. If you one day discover bullets-resistant humans then they may be favored by natural selection, until then guns have no major influence on the human evolutionary path.

Do not worry about it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192614)

You are simply lower on the evolutionary scale. But many of us already knew or suspected that of you.

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (1)

extra the woos (601736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192716)

Don't feel bad. Apparently Pandas are no longer endangered. I think it's high time we cooked a few of them up to see how they settle. With bamboo shoots and sweet and sour sauce. :) /posting without karma bonus cuz this is sooo off topic

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192792)

If you had read the summary closer, you would have noticed that lactose-tolerant people have 10x the sex you have. Get two milk-drinkers together, and they have 100x the sex you do. Now, that's something I'd be interested in if I were you.

Re:Speculation, I don't see how it makes a differe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17193140)

Yeah I wish I would've been hit with this mutation, I had a glass of eggnog yesterday and.. ugh.

Bah, forget that (0, Offtopic)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192564)

Slashdot readers long ago mutated a tolerance to dupes, trolls and reading TFA...

Re:Bah, forget that (5, Funny)

DeeVeeAnt (1002953) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192698)

Unfortunately this will prove to be an evolutionary dead end, as these genes will never be passed on.

Ha hahhh (-1, Offtopic)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192620)

Got MILK?! [tokyotopless.com]

Re:Ha hahhh (1)

avasol (904335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192652)

Ah. First I was ready to dismiss this on the count of it being irrelevant. But now as I think of it, I can clearly see why being lactose-tolerant is of utter (- haha) importance.

Re:Ha hahhh (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192702)

It is actually advertising prostitution, if you want to sleep with this lady, she works Saturdays and Wednesdays from 12 pm to 9pm(though it seems you have to get there by 8 to use her) at the "Soapland lovers" place in Tokyo, Taito-ku, 4-21-3(how streets are addressed in Japan) at Chitsuka(I'm not 100% sure on the name).

Life Changing information! (1)

FrostyCoolSlug (766239) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192630)

I for one welcome our new milk drinking overlords.. Dunno if it's a slow news day or not, but this striking piece of news really is quite dull. Although admittedly, if true, it's fascinating to speculate as to what other evolutionary changes have occurred only in the last few thousand years, but ultimately evolution is something which happens over millions of years, so it's unlikely to see any other real notes / changes in my lifetime.

Re: Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192646)

"Recent"?

I believe that atheists did exist before Bush started talking to God.

Micro vs Macro (4, Insightful)

JPriest (547211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192656)

Even most Creationists conform to at least some kind of evolution (micro).


For example, if Adam & Eve were the only parents why are people so different?

How did all the animals fit on Noah's Ark? If there were just 2 of the animals (dogs for instance) why are they so different now?

What about humans on the Ark, were they forced to inbreed for a second time to populate?

Also, we may not have the ability to actually observe Macro Evolution, but Micro Evolution has been evident for some time now. We have documented proof that Americans have gotten taller for instance.

So when you have small changes over a small period of time, is believing that over a large period of time you could have large changes really that unreasonable?

Re:Micro vs Macro (2, Informative)

Sirch (82595) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192714)

We have documented proof that Americans have gotten taller for instance.
I believe (no sources) that that is most likely down to better nutrition (in the US? Hah! etc), rather than evolution.

Re:Micro vs Macro (5, Informative)

solanum (80810) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192750)

It's not actually that simple. For example, the increase in height in Westerners isn't micro-evolution it's simply diet. When man went from hunter-gather (the state to which we evolved), to an agrarian lifestyle, the quality of diet went down, it hit rock bottom in Europe in the middle ages where teh majority of the population were quite severly malnourished and therefore short. The heights we are currently reaching (pun intended) are basically those of our hunter-gatherer forefathers, because as a population the quality of our diet over the last 50 years has improved so much. Of course we're probably heading down the path of too much now...

So my point is, that it's not easy to define or prove 'micro-evolution'. Just to clarify, I am a biologist by trade and am quite comfortable with the punctuated-equilibrium model of evolution, I'm certainly not arguing that evolution doesn't happen, just that we have to be careful with our conclusions.

Re:Micro vs Macro (0, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192760)

creationists won't listen to any proof even if you slam it right in their face. they are a lost cause, and need to be treated as an enemy of reason and logic.

Re:Micro vs Macro (2, Insightful)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192898)

You, my friend, are an ignoramus. Its not a matter of Creationists possibly believing micro or not- they do. There is a colossal difference between the happenings of genetic material changing vs the structure of genetic material changing.

Re:Micro vs Macro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192848)

We have documented proof that Americans have gotten taller for instance.


That has more to do with what you eat.

Also, it's the Europeans who get taller - (US-)Americans just get wider.

Re:Micro vs Macro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192902)

Also, it's the Europeans who get taller - (US-)Americans just get wider.


That is because Europe is socialist, but the US are capitalist.

It is just too funny a stereotype: The USA are good! Capitalism is good! Being fat is good! Dying of a coronary is good!

(If I weren't an AC, I would get a -1 flamebait for that...)

Re:Micro vs Macro (1)

zufar (603583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192904)

Also, we may not have the ability to actually observe Macro Evolution, but Micro Evolution has been evident for some time now. We have documented proof that Americans have gotten taller for instance.
This is note due to genetic mutations or evolutionary pressure. People just eat better (or more, actually), have better childhood medical care, etc. The article discusses a genetic mutation that turned out to be advantageous. The evolution at work.

Depends (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193058)

If there is a step-by-step path from point A to point B, we have something plausible.

The problems come in when there is a system which step-by-step scenarios are implausible. I and others would say that is unreasonable.

If you have a system that requires a bunch of things to happen before any natural selection advantage is given, I would find that unreasonable.

Ooh, how precise! (0)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192666)

The principal mutation, found among Nilo-Saharan-speaking ethnic groups of Kenya and Tanzania, arose 2,700 to 6,800 years ago, according to genetic estimates

So, 6801 years ago is right out ...

Re:Ooh, how precise! (2, Informative)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192712)

significant figures. I would say that "2700-6800" signifies certainty between 2650 and 6850 years ago, with slightly less (but consistent) certainty that it is between 2750 and 6750 years ago.

Re:Ooh, how precise! (1)

strider44 (650833) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193008)

Evolution is a process. It doesn't happen in an instinct, but even minor genetic changes can take thousands of years to permeate through a population. I think that sentence means that the processes began 6800 years ago and completed 2700 years ago.

Old news (0, Offtopic)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192676)

This has been covered in much more detail in the weekly documentary "Heroes". In addition to the abilities recorded in TFA people can: fly; warp space and time and heal.

Remember, if it wasn't for the brave efforts of these "Heroes", the cheerleader might not have been saved, and the world would be doomed.

where's the mutation? (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192678)

So I read the article and it sounded like there was never a time they could point to and say 'here's when the mutation occured'. Instead they stated when the mutation started to have an effect on the population by weeding out those without the mutation.

So I'd say natural selection happened as recently as ~5000 years ago, not evolution. But maybe TFA didn't explain everything.

Re:where's the mutation? (3, Informative)

arun_s (877518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192822)

So I read the article and it sounded like there was never a time they could point to and say 'here's when the mutation occured'.
It doesn't usually work that way. Evolution is a continuous process, like, for instance, hair growth. Consider a random population of 1000 short haired people. At what instance does the average length cross 3 cm? There really isn't a distinct time when it happens, since several may visit the barber on different days, making the average shuffle up and down (although maintaining a noticeable upward trend all the way). You could only conclude that, after say, 2 months, the average length in that sample was comfortably over 3 cm, although there might not necessarily have been a single instant when the change occured.
Alright that wasn't a very good analogy, but I hope you get the point: In evolution, the average trends in the gene pool are what are considered rather than a specific instance of change. (IANAEB (I'm not an evolutionary biologist), so please correct me if I'm wrong)

Re:where's the mutation? (1)

Guillermito2 (911866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192918)

So I'd say natural selection happened as recently as ~5000 years ago, not evolution

What you just wrote does not make a lot of sense. Every small process of natural selection contributes to the big picture of evolution. In such a small amount of time (a few thousands of year), you probably won't witness a big event as a speciation, like separation of chimps and humans, although it could happen. You are lucky if you can spot and follow one mutation, like in this case. You are luckier if you find it in humans, and even more lucky if you can link this mutation to a functional change that can be easily explained and correlated with a change in behavior, like this lactose tolerance.

That's why it's kind of an important news in genetics. This type of discovery does not happen every day. Plus it's good to rub this stuff in the face of creationists nuts. Remember that in many countries, a huge amount of people don't believe that evolution is a proven fact, and if you start talking about evolution of one kind of primate in particular (homo sapiens), they may shoot you on sight.

Anyway. Your phrase is like saying, in geek translation : "But I just changed one line of this source, so it's not a different program !". "I just changed one pixel, it's not a different image !".

Something like that. More or less.

Re:where's the mutation? (4, Informative)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193028)

I think you missed what I was saying. Natural selection by itself is not evolution. If you have a species with many different traits and some outside influence makes some of those traits more desirable while others less so, the dying out of the less desirable traits is not evolution. No new trait has been introduced into the gene pool. It's not evolution anymore than if some freak disease killed off all the green eyed people in the world.

So, 5000 years ago natural selection occurred. But the gene that allowed the digestion of lactose may have been around for millions of years, before we were even human.

Evolution is the combination of the mutation that created the gene and the natural selection that made for the proliferation of the gene. But that process may have to include a time span of millions of years, from the creation of the gene to the domestication of animals, not just ~5000 years ago.

Re:where's the mutation? (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192984)

Normally the acutal mutations has happened some generations earlier than the first occurence in the phenotype. Most mutations are regressive, that means they are overridden by a dominant allel (gen variant) on the other chromosome (chromosomes other than the X or Y have a twin in the genome). This gives the mutation the chance to be spread in the population without having an actual effect on it. Only if two people carrying the mutations meet and have children together, there is a 25% chance that the mutation is present on both chromosomes of the child and thus expressed in the phenotype.

We all are carrying "sleeping" mutations of the genome, which don't make it to the surface. This slows down the "weeding out" of bad mutations, but on the other hand it is possible to get several independent mutations "collected" which then might add some more complex differences to our phenotype. A mutation thus has several attempts at getting manifest in a species, and thus it can happen that even though it was unsuccessful several times, it might be accompagnied later by another mutation which together are benefitting to the organism.

Re:where's the mutation? (1)

masklinn (823351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192998)

Natural selection is one of the evolutionary processes, just as mutations are.

Natural selection is part of evolution, not something completely different and disjoint.

Why is it always "mutation" (5, Informative)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192686)

I realize that this is popular press and all, but why is mutation always mentioned, but crossover [wikipedia.org] , never so?
Generally speaking, mutation is almost always fatal, crossover is almost never so. Crossover keeps you "in the genome", where mutation is just as likely to kick you out of it. My own theory is that mutation is the driver behind speciation, while crossover is the driver behind evolution.
I've run lots of GAs with mutation turned off, letting crossover [wikipedia.org] do all the work. Crossover, not mutation, is what lets a population do that slow walk/hillclimb, over time, through the genetic landscape.

Re:Why is it always "mutation" (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192804)

Crossovers don't usually create anything "new" but simply mix up existing traits and information. So while crossovers introduce variance into the population and help new genes spread their influence is limited. At best they'll give you a good set of genes but you're still limited to what you started with. Mutations on the other hand introduce new genes which may (or may not) have a beneficial effect.

Re:Why is it always "mutation" (1)

BerntB (584621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192808)

I've run lots of GAs with mutation turned off, letting crossover do all the work.

Then you do crossover so one in the new generation can get "extra" material from a parent? In that way, a gene can be copied and modified. That is a known mechanism in the genome. There are lots of genes in every species that are modified copies of other genes.

Without any new species being created.

You could probably do a trivial mathematical argument that such a crossover operation in the normal genome has the same "algorithmic power" as crossover + mutations, since crossover operations could cut/paste in the same information -- given enough cuts and pastes from different areas...

Re:Why is it always "mutation" (5, Informative)

kshort (1017266) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192824)

I'm a geneticist, and we typically use the terminology 'mutation' to describe any change in DNA which escapes the cell's natural ability to inhibit external of internal modification of the genome, typically using 'proofreading' mechanisms, or all the way through to cellular apoptosis to delete entire cells with certain (what the cell thinks are) detrimental mutations. Such simple changes, if they escape correction or deletion, most definitely have the ability to cause major problems, but on the flip side those mutations have the ability to modify the activities of proteins which can be advantageous (and others may do nothing at all). Whilst examples of advantageous mutations are few and far between on timescales that we can appreciate in concordance with a human lifetime, in the evolution of a species such mutations are seen to occur rather rapidly. Crossover is never a term I have come across in the definition of these terms, unless you're talking about recombination, which is another thing entirely.

Re:Why is it always "mutation" (2, Interesting)

Vreejack (68778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192828)

Most mutations are not fatal, they are neutral, having no observable effects in the offspring. Elsewise, you would probably be dead. It is these random mutations that build up the gene pool, giving natural selection something to work on, and without which crossover would have no effect.

Actually, strong selection pressures are identified on a gene by the absence of crossover. When a gene is strongly selected the other genes and junk near it tend to be carried along intact, instead of being carved up by recombination.

Or are you suggesting that the gene for lactose tolerance arose through crossover? And if so how is that not a mutation?

Re:Why is it always "mutation" (2, Interesting)

cnettel (836611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192844)

Actually, major crossover events, creating a different chromosomal makeup, can be a very efficient barrier against fertile off-spring. We can observe lots of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), the "purest" mutation you can achieve, in humans. Some of them cause known phenotypical differences, far from all of them lethal. Then, we also have all those mutations that really just replace one codon for an amino-acid with another one for the same residue, with very limited effects, if any.

Re:Why is it always "mutation" (4, Informative)

Guillermito2 (911866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193160)

why is mutation always mentioned, but crossover, never so?

You're right. Point mutations (like a bit flipping in geekspeak) are only one kind of evolution mechanism, although it can be caused by several mechanisms (error during copy of the genome, which in fact happens all the time, 1 or 2 per billion base pair per duplication if I remember, a rate that would never be tolerated in computers, it's like 1 bit flipping every 125 Mb, also chemicals, cosmic rays, etc). But to participate in evolution, it has to be transmitted to the germline. So the mutation has to happen in your balls, in other terms.

Generally speaking, mutation is almost always fatal

In fact, no. There are many point mutations between human beings, they are called SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) and there is a big worldwide project that mapped many of them them. Most of them are silent, or at least do not have a black and white effect (but it sometimes unfortunately happens : one single mutation in 3 billions nucleotides and you will suffer a painful and slow death). Remember that people used to say that most of the human genome is junk (this junk actually seems to be more and more important, but it's mainly "apart from defined genes - a few percent - we have no idea what the rest is doing here").

A point mutation in a primate genome would be like flipping a random bit in an overbloated Visual Basic application. It's very likely the program will still be funtional. As opposed to changing a random bit in a very size optimized assembler program, which is almost certainly going to crash.

My own theory is that mutation is the driver behind speciation, while crossover is the driver behind evolution.

I'm not sure it's supported by facts, although it's an interesting theory. Don't forget that there are even other ways to modify a genome. An important one is polyploidy : suddenly for some reason an organism doubles the number of chromosomes (a cell that duplicate the genome but fails to separate into two daughter cells). As you suddenly have twice the number of redundant genes, then the new genome is like a playground for other kinds of mutation, as time and random can play around with the copies of the genes without much effect, as long as there is one functional copy.

Another mechanism, as opposed to point mutation or whole genome doubling, is deletions or copies (in tandem, or inverted, or somewhere else, or in the middle of another gene) of huge portions of the genome (several thousands of nucleotides). In fact, there was a paper in Nature two or three weeks ago that compared the chimp and the human genome for this type of big chunk mutation.

A last one is through the action of transposons which may be some old retrovirus succesfully inserted in the genome. For some reason, sometimes a transposon get excited, wakes up and it will excise itself from its current location and jump somewhere else in the genome. But this process is never perfect, and the jump removes or leaves a few nucleotides that are going to induce a mess if it's inside a gene.

There are others ways to fuel evolution at the genome level, but that were the ones that came on top of my head quickly. Plus I need a coffee.

diarrhea. (1)

snarfbot (1036906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192724)

"The survival advantage was so powerful perhaps because those with the mutations not only gained extra energy from lactose but also, in drought conditions, would have benefited from the water in milk. People who were lactose-intolerant could have risked losing water from diarrhea, Dr. Tishkoff said."

still seems suspect to me, i guess the ones that tolerated lactose were also more promiscuous, less picky. OR maybe its simply because lets face it: who wants to have sex with someone with diarrhea??? not this guy.

or maybe its what they said, and they were healthier and produced more children, and/or lived longer.

Re:diarrhea. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192838)

...OR maybe its simply because lets face it: who wants to have sex with someone with diarrhea??? ...
You must be new here.
Just FYI the Internet is full of people like that.

what they'll say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192818)

The Nilo-Saharan-speaking ethnic groups of Kenya and Tanzania were put on earth to test our faith in God.

Stop the intolerance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192858)

Can't we all just get along? Just because someone is born without...
.
.
.
.
.
... wait for it ...
.
.
.
.
.
... toes doesn't mean we have to be intolerant!

Humans have evolved ??? (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17192892)

Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolution
Oh, genetically. Yes, ok, right. Apart from that we're still as stupid as we used to be. Yay.

Scientists discover examples of de-evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17192906)

These examples include Tom Cruise, K-Fed and Rob Malda.

The original papers abstract: (1)

GrumpySimon (707671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193014)

Convergent adaptation of human lactase persistence in Africa and Europe


A SNP in the gene encoding lactase (LCT) (C/T-13910) is associated with the ability to digest milk as adults (lactase persistence) in Europeans, but the genetic basis of lactase persistence in Africans was previously unknown. We conducted a genotype-phenotype association study in 470 Tanzanians, Kenyans and Sudanese and identified three SNPs (G/C-14010, T/G-13915 and C/G-13907) that are associated with lactase persistence and that have derived alleles that significantly enhance transcription from the LCT promoter in vitro. These SNPs originated on different haplotype backgrounds from the European C/T-13910 SNP and from each other. Genotyping across a 3-Mb region demonstrated haplotype homozygosity extending >2.0 Mb on chromosomes carrying C-14010, consistent with a selective sweep over the past 7,000 years. These data provide a marked example of convergent evolution due to strong selective pressure resulting from shared cultural traits--animal domestication and adult milk consumption.


You can get it fron Nature Genetics if you have institutional access [nature.com] .

If you want to know why Lactose tolerance is a big deal read this [plosjournals.org] (mainly because it's a nice example of Gene-Culture co-evolution [wikipedia.org] ).

--Simon

Why is only Africa brought up? (2, Informative)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193032)

- About only 2% of Swedes are lactose intolerant.
- About 20-60% of Africans are lactose intolerant.

I can personally see a much stronger signature of these genetic traits in Scandinavia? Is the difference that this evolution was not "recent"? Because surely it has to be some form of natural selection causing this in Scandinavia too, perhaps trigged earlier for some reason?

Some useful links:
- Lactose intolerance by human groups [wikipedia.org] .
- World map with lactose intolerance distribution [wikimedia.org] .

by this logic.. (-1, Troll)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193050)

by this logic in 2000 people can say that having lighter skin was a genetic mutation that offered people with such skin a significant advantage in the world. As a result people with darker skin did not produce as many offspring and most of those that did live ended up getting infected with HIV.

Adaption, not speciation (1)

Cauchy (61097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193072)

NB: This is an example of adaption, not speciation. Speciation has been observed before, and is thus not truly a theory. Only the most boneheaded of creationist would disagree with adaption since it is not incompatible with even strict creationism. What is controversial (according to some crazoids, at least), is the idea that one species gives rise to another (speciation) like humans having an ancestor that was an ape. The idea that black moths can become white in a generation or that humans can become able to drink milk is NOT what the creation/evolution 'debate' is about.

Re:Adaption, not speciation (1)

Cauchy (61097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193080)

Oops. Adaption has been observed before. Not speciation. This thing needs an edit. Sorry.

Sort of Muddled Marketing (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193074)

I think we should be clear here, what they are discussing is natural variation within a single species, not an evolution from one species to another.

But is it a compliment? (1)

dorpus (636554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193114)

I am getting my PhD in statistical genetics. Does lactose tolerance reflect a lack of civilized sources of food? Northern Europeans and Nilo-Saharans were relative latecomers to civilized life. As recently as a thousand years ago, Northern Europeans were still a bunch of cannibals running around with stone axes, and drank milk from animals. In East Asia, Mongolians are lactose-tolerant, but they were less civilized than other countries in the region which acquired agriculture thousands of years ago. Similarly, Westerners are alcohol-tolerant because they did not know how to boil water to sterilize it until about 150 years ago, so they added alcohol to their water all the time. Incidentally, genetics do not tell the whole story. Lactose tolerance is also affected by gut flora. Lactose intolerance is increasing in Western countries as bacterial diversity in our environment is decreasing from excessive hygiene. Many differences in phenotype between different ethnic groups, long assumed to be genetic in origin, have turned out not to be so. As Japanese nutrition standards have improved, their average height is now taller than some European countries. African-Americans were long assumed to be genetically more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases, but white Russians in Finland have rates of cardiovascular disease far higher than African-Americans. Race-based susceptibility to diabetes is also under question -- groups such as Pima Indians with high diabetes rates also eat huge amounts of fry bread and other unhealthy foods.

So the creationists are right! (0, Flamebait)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17193122)

Then God said, Ye man, Adam, thou shalt be tolerant of milk into your adulthood. He said it some 5000 years ago. Precise date calculated by that Bishop in England. See? finally science is catching up to our ability to twist the scriptures to say whatever we want it to say.
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