Monday, November 23, 2015

New DNA Analysis Shows Quick Change During the Agricultural Revolution

Humans as a species originated predominantly as hunter gatherers. It wasn't until a few thousand years ago that they began to settle down in one place and plant crops. By studying the DNA of these ancient humans, researchers have been able to see just how quickly their DNA changed to accommodate for this rapid shift in lifestyles. Certain crops began to be used as staples, which started to become a problem. Wheat, a crop low in key nutrients, was one of the primary food sources. A gene labeled SLC22A4 was identified that encodes for a protein that helps a cell capture more ergothioneine (an amino acid) than a cell without it. This gene gave a selective advantage to people with it by enabling them to obtain more nutrients from the food they ate. Along with this data comes a host of new questions. Researchers found that people in Northern Europe grew taller after the introduction of agriculture, and the people in Southern Europe began to grow shorter. As of now there is no real answer.

This research can lead to incredible new insights about the origins of humans as well as the lifestyles that they lived. As of now, only European skeletons have been analyzed. In the future, researchers can expect a host of new data to be gathered from around the world. One day scientists might be able to identify all the major genetic changes that humans have gone through to become the way that they are today.
An ancient European burial site

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