(Possible paywall? Dunno. I subscribe to The Economist, so it just displays for me.)

Short version: The Bajau people in Indonesia spend 60% of their life underwater. Their neighbors don't. Scientific analysis shows that the Bajau have much larger spleens, which helps increase red blood cells storage which improves oxygenation of the blood, so they can spend longer underwater.

Human evolution, demonstrated on a 1,000 year time scale.

Only a thousand years.

Leif Ericson visits what will become North America. England and Hungary are established. The Song Dynasty begins using gunpowder. The Japanese national anthem is written. Cairo is founded.

I mean... this is freaking RECENT HISTORY, as far as evolution is concerned.

I love science.


It seems like the list is ever growing. Our bodies and our genetics are absolutely amazing at adapting to environmental pressures and abundances and sometimes it can happen impressively fast.

A few different populations in a few different areas independently developed lactose tolerance, allowing them to process milk and dairy products.

Here's an article you might like from National Geographic that, like the lactose tolerance Wikipedia article, talks about how various populations adapted to low oxygen environments in the higher atmosphere. Here's an opening quote to whet your appetite . . .

    "To have examples of three geographically dispersed populations adapting in different ways to the same stress is very unusual," said Cynthia Beall, a physical anthropologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. "From an evolutionary standpoint the question becomes, Why do these differences exist? We need to figure out when, how, and why that happened."

    To begin to answer some of these questions, a multidisciplinary group of scientists, including Beall, met earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, Washington.

    "High-altitude populations offer a unique natural lab that allows us to follow [many] lines of evidence—archaeological, biological, climatological—to answer intriguing questions about social, cultural, and biological adaptations," said Mark Aldenderfer, an archaeologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who organized the AAAS symposium with Beall.

For those interested, Wikipedia has even more in depth and technical articles out there, from Human Variability to Human Evolutionary Genetics. It doesn't take much clicking around until you find yourself down a rabbit hole of articles to read.

Edit: I forgot to add, as an aside, I saw this article also on Deutsche Welle and National Geographic. Similar to your article about the scientists looking at signs of Anthroprocene climates in Earth's past. Looks like everyone has their eyes on sciency stuff right now, which is good, cause maybe that means everyone is focusing a bit less on politics at the moment.

posted by goobster: 338 days ago