Biology Current Event Report
“. . . From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off, and these lost branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to us only from having been found in a fossil state . . . As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications" (Darwin, 1859).
Charles Darwin was one of the first to truly simplify and articulate the complex theory of evolution in his book “On the origin of species by means of natural selection” published in 1859. Darwin introduced a theory of evolution in which he explains his ideology that: all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor. Darwin’s theory postulates the progression of organisms from the beneficial changes in genetic coding from ancestral inferior life-forms to essentially maintain species preservation. The process by which inferior species fallout of existence is known as “Natural selection” better known as survival of the fittest or as we think of it today “The Hunger Games”. Thinking of Charles Darwin’s theory, I began to wonder, what will humans be like in the next 250,000 years? I began my research about the future of human evolution by looking into the past. I wanted to observe certain patterns and specific reoccurring trends in the evolution of our ancestors. It became apparent to me that the timespan between each evolutionary period and significant evolutionary changes of our ancestors, was gradually shortening. The image at the top clearly shows this. Some of the more apparent changes between each of the “superior” species include, a smaller skull size and thickness, different facial feature, standing taller, losing hair around the body etc. Some of the less evident evolutionary changes include: intelligence, communication methods, hunting strategies, tools used, etc. This acceleration in evolutionary periods, is most likely due to the fact that our human population has increased tremendously, and has interbred all over the world, and is living in various different climatic regions, including cities. Having larger populations located in one city or area, has certainly simplified the wide spread of contagious disease, for instance the spanish flu which rapidly spread through and wreaked havoc in the communities of 1918. Only those fortunate enough to have a very strong immune system survived.
There are also many dietary changes since the end of the last ice age nearly 10000 years go, diet now is less varied, most individuals today follow an omnivorous diet meaning they eat both meat, meat byproducts (eggs, dairy), fish as well as vegetables, fruits, grains and starches. It is also quite likely that the human species ability to adapt to environmental factors, and diseases, is due to the steadily increasing amount of genetic diversity. In a large population more genetic mutations occur, simply due to the fact that there are more people. genetic diversity occurs even if the mutation rate per person remains the same. Mutation rates may also have increased because modern humans are exposed to new varieties of man-made environmental pollution that can cause additional mutations.
It is not clear what all of the consequences of the environmental and behavioural changes for humans have been, but it has been observed that the human species has become significantly shorter in stature in the past 10000 years. We have developed on a global level immunity to the more severe effects of some diseases such as measles and influenza. In my research I couldn’t help but notice that there…