Category Archives: Human Evolution

Humans are still evolving—and we can watch it happen

Many people think evolution requires thousands or millions of years, but biologists know it can happen fast. Now, thanks to the genomic revolution, researchers can actually track the population-level genetic shifts that mark evolution in action—and they’re doing this in humans. Two studies presented at the Biology of Genomes meeting here last week show how…
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How the introduction of farming changed the human genome

The introduction of agriculture into Europe about 8,500 years ago changed the way people lived right down to their DNA. Until recently, scientists could try to understand the way humans adapted genetically to changes that occurred thousands of years ago only by looking at DNA variation in today's populations. But our modern genomes contain mere…
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New Human Species with Orange-Size Brain Discovered

A newly discovered extinct human species may be the most primitive unearthed yet, with a brain about the size of an orange. But despite its small brain size, the early human performed ritual burials of its dead, researchers say. This newfound species from South Africa, named Homo naledi, possessed an unusual mix of features, such…
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The Tree of Life may be more like a bush

New species evolve whenever a lineage splits off into several. Because of this, the kinship between species is often described in terms of a 'tree of life', where every branch constitutes a species. Now, researchers at Uppsala University have found that evolution is more complex than this model would have it, and that the tree…
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How small genetic change in Yersinia pestis changed human history

While studying Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for epidemics of plague such as the Black Death, Wyndham Lathem, Ph.D., assistant professor in microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, found a single small genetic change that fundamentally influenced the evolution of the deadly pathogen, and thus the course of human history. In a paper…
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Humans Trekked Out of Africa Via Egypt, Study Suggests

The major gateway for modern humans out of Africa may have been Egypt, a new genetic analysis suggests. This finding may help scientists reconstruct how humans evolved as they wandered across the globe, the researchers added. Modern humans first arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa south of the Sahara. When and how the modern human…
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New Species of Human Ancestor Found in Ethiopia

More than 3 million years ago, when “Lucy” was roaming the savannah of present-day Ethiopia, she may have encountered other two-legged apes not unlike her own species, Australopithecus afarensis—yet still just a wee bit strange. Represented by jawbones from three individuals, a newly described species named Australopithecus deyrimeda adds to the scatter of evidence that…
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Two ancient human fossils from Laos reveal early human diversity

An ancient human skull and a jawbone found a few meters away in a cave in northern Laos add to the evidence that early modern humans were physically quite diverse, researchers report in PLOS ONE. The skull, found in 2009 in a cave known as Tam Pa Ling in the Annamite Mountains of present-day Laos, and…
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How Europeans evolved white skin

Most of us think of Europe as the ancestral home of white people. But a new study shows that pale skin, as well as other traits such as tallness and the ability to digest milk as adults, arrived in most of the continent relatively recently. The work, presented here last week at the 84th annual…
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