Evolution has gifted humans with skills beyond other ancient peoples' capabilities. But evolution did not stop when Homo Sapiens became the last hominin standing — humans are still evolving all the time.
These three examples of how the human body has changed show how far our species has come — and how we may still be adapting to the demands of our ever-shifting environment.
Inverse is counting down the 20 stories redefining 'human' from 2020. This is number 18. See the full list here.
Body temperature — A temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is classically accepted as the “normal” human temperature. But, according to a study published in January, a more accurate reading would come out to be about 97.9 degrees.
The researchers analyzed medical records from the past two centuries, and when averaged together, they found that average body temperatures had dropped by 0.7 degrees.
“We are so much healthier than 19th-century humans,” Julie Parsonnet, the study’s author, told Inverse. And yet, “we’ve gotten fatter, taller, and we’ve gotten cooler. Can we get cooler still? I expect so, but I’m not sure how much.”
She hypothesized that this downward trend can be attributed to worldwide declines in inflammation, as well as better living conditions.
Gene changes — Our genes are in a perpetual state of change, from one generation to the next. One major example of this is the rise in genes allowing for lactose tolerance. This upsurge is most likely due to the fact the majority of humans today drink milk all their lives. Historically, the enzyme that allows us to digest dairy turned off once we hit adulthood — when we were traditionally weaned off our mothers' breast milk.
Bone deep — Despite all this milk consumption, humans’ bones are in fact getting lighter and more frail. Owing to the sedentary nature of modern life, our bones have decreased in density and strength, most likely due a reduction in physical activity.
Scientists think this weakening started about 12,000 years ago, when we switched from hunting to settled farming.
The human race is still transforming. As humans have changed their lifestyles — from farmer to factory worker to office drone — we have evolved in accordance.
We’re not immune to the effects of natural selection, Joshua Akey, a professor at Princeton University, told Inverse.
“Our environment is certainly different than it was even a century ago,” he said, “and it is not hard to imagine things like gene-culture evolution playing an even more prominent role in the future of human evolution.”
Inverse is counting down the 20 stories redefining 'human' from 2020. This is number 18. Read the original story here.