26 July 2010

Adventures in Very Recent Evolution (New York Times)

A very interesting article on human evolution that would surely add to the evolution-creationism debate: Adventures in Very Recent Evolution (New York Times, 19 July 2010)


East Asians have several genetic variants that are rare or absent in Europeans and Africans. Their hair has a thicker shaft. A version of a gene called EDAR is a major determinant of thicker hair, which may have evolved as protection against cold, say a team of geneticists led by Ryosuke Kimura of Tokai University School of Medicine in Japan. Most East Asians also have a special form of a gene known as ABCC11, which makes the cells of the ear produce dry earwax. Most Africans and Europeans, on the other hand, possess the ancestral form of the gene, which makes wet earwax. It is hard to see why dry earwax would confer a big survival advantage, so the Asian version of the gene may have been selected for some other property, like making people sweat less, says a team led by Koh-ichiro Yoshiura of Nagasaki University.