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Study predicts that in 400 years average woman will weigh nearly 1 kg more, be 2 cm (almost an inch) shorter

A strong body of evidence exists that humans are continually evolving a diverse fashion in response to various environmental influences.  Despite skepticism from some who blindly reject such studies for various dogmatic reasons, human evolution does appear to be happening.  And researchers in the fields of genetics and evolutionary biology are revealing exciting insights into what man (and woman) may look like in the future.

A new study from Yale University researchers offers some intriguing and unusual conclusions about where human evolution may be headed.  A new study analyzing a population of 14,000 residents of the Massachusetts town of Framingham indicates that women are being naturally selected to be shorter and chubbier, have children younger, and have lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

The complex study came to these conclusions by looking at the medical records of 2,238 female participants, spread across two generations (starting in 1948) and looking at their medical history when they reached menopause.  The study examined those that successfully reproduced and looked at what traits influenced their reproductive success.  It also made adjustments for income, education and lifestyle choices such as smoking, before applying correlations to determine the direction of evolution.  They also looked at secondary effects, i.e. whether low blood pressure led to younger sexual maturity, or whether the paths were independent.

Based on the results women in the third generation of the study, currently ongoing, are expected to begin their first period a month earlier, and enter menopause a full month later than their mothers and grandmothers, on average.  Heaviness proved to be also be selected, as heavier women have more children, on average.

Professor Stephen Stearns, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University and coauthor of the study states, "The idea that natural selection has stopped operating in humans because we have gotten better at keeping people alive is just plain wrong.  It's interesting that the underlying biological framework is still detectable beneath the culture."

The Yale experts predict that based on the current trends, in the year 2409AD, the average woman in Framingham will be 2 cm  (almost 1 inch) shorter and 1 kg heavier (approximately 2.5 lb).  Women in 2409 AD are predicted to have their period 5 months earlier and to go into menopause 10 months later -- almost a full year later.

Sean G. Byars, a post-doctoral researcher at Yale, was lead author of the paper, and researchers from University of Pennsylvania and the Boston University School of Medicine also contributed to it.  The intriguing study was funded by Yale University and was published in a prestigious journal -- the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- on October 19.


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RE: I offer an alternate hypothysis...
By LumbergTech on 11/2/2009 6:52:58 PM , Rating: 3
new scientist magazine disagrees


RE: I offer an alternate hypothysis...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/2/2009 6:58:26 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry but a period of 75 years is rediculously short time period for evolution to take place.

Selective breeding or a change brought on from external factors or dietary habit's is NOT evolution.

Now, find me a genetic mutation or change in DNA causing this trend, and show that's it's being passed on genetically, and then you have something. But this study is doing nothing more than observing something, forming a hypothosis based on a short time period and small sampling size, and forming a conclusion. That is no proof of evolution.


RE: I offer an alternate hypothysis...
By PhatoseAlpha on 11/2/2009 8:07:36 PM , Rating: 4
Genetic mutations are one of many mechanism by which genetic variation occurs.

Selective breeding and differential reproduction and survival due to the environment (ie, your external factors) is the very definition of natural selection. Your assertion that these are not evolution is not merely wrong - it's misunderstanding a fundamental portion of evolution to such an extent that it's mind boggling.


RE: I offer an alternate hypothysis...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/2/2009 9:45:11 PM , Rating: 3
sigh..

Do I have to point out that his "proof", is that in hundreds of years women will be one inch shorter and slightly heavier ?

I love how we're arguing like this is an absolute given already...


RE: I offer an alternate hypothysis...
By PhatoseAlpha on 11/2/2009 11:28:49 PM , Rating: 3
We're not arguing like this is an absolute given already. Statistically I'd expect the study to be on shaky ground, and claims it's proof of anything are highly questionable.

But - even if the study is completely wrong and proves nothing, incorrect counter arguements are still incorrect.


By Alexstarfire on 11/2/2009 11:50:15 PM , Rating: 1
I agree. Reclaimer is failing to understand the very meaning of the word evolution. He would like it to be a very limited definition of which that simply isn't the case. If you want genetic mutation then go look around Chernobyl I'm sure they've had some of the "evolution" you're looking for. While I can understand your logic it just simply isn't the case. If our tastes and such change, such as who we desire to mate with, it's all chemistry, literally. Just because we can't measure everything in the brain doesn't mean it's not evolving.


RE: I offer an alternate hypothysis...
By mcnabney on 11/3/2009 9:41:20 AM , Rating: 4
Let's just leave the article at bad science. First, societal selective pressures and diet changes clearly obliterate any specific, biological, selective pressure on the population. Second, the didn't even touch on the subject of race, since different races bring different portfolios of averages. More hispanics marrying into a white communinity is going to make subsequent generations shorter. But that is not evolution. That is just a side effect of racial blending and hybridism.


By kaoken on 11/3/2009 1:50:48 PM , Rating: 2
Well if a person of mix race has an advantage over other people, then I'd say that's evolution right there.


By William Gaatjes on 11/4/2009 9:34:10 PM , Rating: 1
Indeed. How you live your life influences your offspring. Although for example alcohol abuse may not effect your children's dna, When you children have children, your grandchildren can be affected. Even living on a certain diet can cause this effect. In essence this means that you are what you eat, but at certain right situations, your children become what you eat as well.

To quote myself :
quote:
That people realize that what negative thing they do, lives on beyond tomorrow in their offspring.


Because environmental effects will be imprinted in your dna when :

A: The egg cells are formed in the human female fetus .

B: When the spermatogonium (sperm stem cells) are formed in the adolescent human male.

This means that social and environmental factors affect your DNA. It is not like you mutate in a heavy way, it is more that the amount of gene expression alters for the affected genes. Our DNA is not a basic blue print, many genes are switched on simultaneously , reducing the amounts of genes needed. But making our gene expression far more complex and thus at the same time more susceptible to the environment we live in.

It is called epigenetics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromosome_15_(human)

An example is that the deletion or malfunction of 1 gene on chromosome 15 can cause 2 different genetic disorders.
Because the same gene is used differently depending if it is from your father or mother.

To do a little speculation :

In essence if you want to make true clones through vertical gene transfer not susceptible to the environment , you would have to create an entire new human being with DNA sequences for every step in that we are formed. Instead of needing multiple genes in the right amount simultaneously, we would need for every step one gene that is to be turned on or off. That would however possibly make our dna huge.


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