Gene Mutations and Evolution

Gene Mutations and Evolution

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The shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a farming lifestyle was a trade-off providing many different positive and negative consequences, both biological and social. Many of the dental problems that humans experience today are because of agriculture. The size of the human face and jaw is a direct result of agriculture because human ancestors started to eat softer, cooked foods. These softer foods provided less stress on the muscles and bones than harder foods that were eaten before. Bone is affected by environmental stresses, developing and receding as needed. Teeth, however, are not as effected by environmental conditions, being mostly genetic. While the jaw became smaller, tooth size remained large. The negative consequence of this is overcrowding and malocclusion. With agriculture also came the consumption of more carbohydrates. Carbohydrates cause dental caries because the food is partially digested while in the mouth, releasing lactic acid, which dissolves the enamel and causes tooth decay. Humans began to experience more cavities and enamel deficiencies with the consumption of carbohydrates. Agriculture resulted in a decline of nutritional quality. People began to rely on single sources of food, which caused deficiencies in essential nutrients, like amino acids, proteins, and iron. As a result to the reduced nutritional quality, there were increasing cases of iron deficiencies, reduced child development, and reduced height of adults. Agriculture increased the amount of food that was available, resulting in an increase in the fitness of the human population. Villages and towns began to appear as populations grew. Towns and cities with large amounts of people were unsanitary: supporting many pathogens. Many diseases are linked to large numbers of people living in unsanitary and close proximities. Agriculture also made it possible to accumulate wealth and caused organized warfare in competition for ever-increasingly limited resources. As technologies became more sophisticated strength began to be replaced by technology. Less work caused a decrease in bone size.

It is not true that humans stopped evolving after the emergence of the modern man. Evolution and biology are influenced very heavily by climate changes such as fluctuating weather patterns and temperature changes. Humans are a direct influence to the ever changing climate. Overfishing, the burning of fossil fuels, and destroying of natural habitats are a few of the many things that humans do that effect the climate. Humans have partially contributed to global warming. Climate changes due to global warming will have a dramatic impact on the availability of food sources and other resources that humans rely on.

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Some places will become dryer, therefore limiting the ability for agriculture. Coastal cities will be flooded and destroy the homes of many people. Fluctuating temperatures, droughts, declines in air and water quality, as well as the evolution of diseases will cause illness and death. Humans will have to adapt and evolve in order to survive these environmental changes. Natural selection will favor those who have evolved adapted to the changing climate and diseases. We can also observe natural selection at work today. For example, human populations that live in areas of the world where malaria is present, it is more advantageous to have the sickle cell gene to fight of malaria. People with this gene are more likely to survive than people without it. More specifically, people who are heterozygous with the sickle cell gene because people who are homozygous with it can’t form blood clots well resulting in heavy bleeding if cut. Another example is people who live in places with very high elevation, like the Tibetans. The HIF2a gene is evolutionary advantageous. Those without the gene react to the high altitude by producing more hemoglobin for more oxygen. This increase has a negative effect because it does not allow for sufficient oxygen to reach the body’s organs. The gene allows for people to maintain normal levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells in their blood. Since mutation is random, it is a numbers game. Research has shown that evolution may in fact be speeding up rather than stopping when modern humans emerged. With an ever growing population the possibility of gene mutations is much higher. A higher number of mutations in combination with globalization due to technology advances in communication and transportation, will increase the amount of evolution that takes place in the human population.

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