• Question: How do humans evolve and have we evolved in the recent years

    Asked by aislinglynch to Angela, Gabriele, Karen, Maria, Shane on 13 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Gabriele De Chiara

      Gabriele De Chiara answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      Humans have evolved in the last 10 or 20 thousand years. The population height is increasing steadily. People are also becoming more resistant to certain genetic diseases and to infections. Also women can have children until an older age. The reason of this accelerated evolution is the mixing of human populations from different regions in the world. This favours the exchange of DNA whose variations are a fundamental ingredient of evolution.

    • Photo: Karen McCarthy

      Karen McCarthy answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      That’s such an interesting questions Aisling, I always wonder about evolution too. Humans originated about 5 million years ago, from a common ancestor with apes. Over millions of year, we began to evolve – learning how to use and make tools (approx 2 million years ago), how to build shelters and how to domesticate and farm animals. Then, a turning point came when we discovered the use of fire (about 800,00 years ago) and then about 200,00 years ago, we became the species we are all now considered to be, homo sapiens, originating in Africa and slowly working our way around the world.

      But are we still evolving? Not as fast perhaps, but still scientists think yes. Before we starting milking farms animals for example, humans didn’t have a gene for digesting for lactose (the sugar in milk), yet now most of us happily drink milk.


      This is a nice image to demonstrate!

    • Photo: Shane Mc Guinness

      Shane Mc Guinness answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      Great question Aisling! Scientists have been talking about this for years and still there is debate about how it happens. Basically, it’s down to the design of our bodies. We as people are all a little different, like hair colour, our shape and skin colour. This is because of our genes, which are given to us by our parents; half by our mother and half by our father.
      Evolution happens when a particular thing about you allows you survive slightly better than another person. And if you can live long enough to pass these things on to your children, then you’re slightly better at surviving than someone else. And because of this, these things about you that were different become part of the whole population! Remember, you don’t evolve as a person, but your children and their children (and their children…..) will slowly become different. That’s evolution!
      Because human medicine is so good nowadays and we’re good at changing to deal with our environment now, in your own generation, evolution is MUCH slower in human beings than it used to be. In prehistoric times, if humans were not strong they quickly died and did not pass on these genes to their children. With medicine we can now treat these people with medicine and better food. But it is happening. For example, humans are much taller than they were only a hundred years ago and red hair is becoming less and less. Some even say that the shape of our skeleton has changed over the last few hundred years! I wonder what we’ll be like in another hundred years!? Taller anyway, with massive thumbs from all the texting we do eh!?
      Some also think that if humans had not got intelligent and learned to fly or sail to other continents, there could have been several different species of humans in the future! Now all our genes are mixed up though!

    • Photo: Angela Stevenson

      Angela Stevenson answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      Great question Aisling! I don’t have much to add since you guys did a great job at answering this question. Though I have to point out that I m glad evolution exist and that we ve made it this far in time because our early relatives didn’t have it easy. While they didn’t have to fight dinosaurs out of their caves (since dinosaurs died out before the first humans), but they did have to face saber-toothed tigers, cave lions, and woolly mammoths! Yikes! Good job 🙂