Tag Archives: evolution of Man

Bonobo toolmaking hints glimpses of “cutting edge” stone age technology

This is really cool as human ancestors, many millions of years ago, my have started making tools in very similar fashion. Here is the Roffman et al. PNAS paper that describes the findings in detail.

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Genomics for future anthropologists & archeologists

An awesome use of genomics and proteomics in archeology and paleopathogenomics (yes I just invented the word!)

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Visualizing biology: from conception to birth, cell division, and more

Visualization helps in learning anything. In biology visualization has traditionally been done using pictures or posters (right).
From conception to birth. But that is so 1970s. In the technocratic future, where lullabies are delivered via iPod and iPads are norm in kindergarten, figures or posters wond do any good. Kids would hate to learn from static images….they need videos! And if you are making videos, you might as well use real data…and Alexander Tsiaras does exactly that. Using advanced technology on real pregnant women he captures images of life from conception to birth. Mes merizing!

Okay, let’s take it to a molecular level now. Let us look at structure of DNA, cell division, and molecular machinery of cell division:

Cant have enough? Visit Drew Berry’s page.

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Another example of ERV’s role in evolution

To end a royal dynasty, one has to eliminate its generals: this was the lesson of a Chinese movie I once watched in Netflix. Similar strategy is adopted by ERVs.
In a recent Plos Biology article (click here for a good summary for general audience) the authors identify MAVS, a protein produced by mitochondria (the general) that ignites immune response to protect the human cell (the Royalty) from Hepatitis-C virus (HCV). Three unrelated primates have the exact same non-synonymous mutation in the MAVS gene that  potentially alters the protein’s structure making it untouchable by the HCV particles. Unfortunately, humans, the primary host of HCV, do not have that mutation thus are relatively easily conquered by HCV. Sucks!
VERY INTERESTING is the presence of that same mutation in three different species: the authors apparently conclude it is a convergent evolution. However, this finding is in stark contrast with studies in yeast where convergence occurred at genic and network level but not at SNP level. Also, population genetics theories also find it very unlikely. Think about it, what is the probability that exactly same mutation would occur in three species branch AND SNP gets selected in all three branches? MINISCULE.
Could it be more plausible that the particular mutation existed in low frequencies in the common ancestor of all the primates and was readily available in all three branches at the time HCV like virus was active and quickly got fixed in the population? That particular virus probably did not infect humans (and other primates that do not have them) so they lost the mutaiton due to drift. Just a thought…

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A single mutation lead to human bipedalism?

Walking Monkey: Could human posture be due to a single mutation?

Walking Monkey: Could human posture be due to a single mutation?

Interesting indeed but I was not able to find the source or any other reports on this monkey. Take it with a grain of salt. Scientists have recently published a report in PNAS that indicates that bipedal humans came from tree living apes. Could it be that our tree living ancestor had a mutation (like Natasha, the Israeli monkey) that allowed them to become bipedals. Being bipedal gave them benefit in the flat sub-Saharan Africa as they had vision much farther down and also could throw weapons such as spears better. This may have lead to the rise of the Homo? Of course this is a speculation but not entirely untrue.

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Simulating Human Evolution?

This is a fun video.

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10% of the Human Genome under selection

Living beings bear with various pressures for survival and such pressures during course of time cause various changes. Even Human beings are not untouched by these pressures. According to a Cornell study which compared genomes of various ethnicities of humans “natural selection has caused as much as 10 percent of the human genome to change in some populations in the last 15,000 to 100,000 years, when people began migrating from Africa.”

The study focused on hot spots on our genome such as skin color which is very different among populations but very similar within a population. Interestingly, the skin pigmentation genes used in this study reaffirms the “Out of Africa” theory long supported by most Anthropologists and Geneticists. While there were changes in skin genes, genes in brain development showed no differences. This was a major and hopefully the ultimate slap to those who still believe Multiregional Hypothesis—that Humans originated in various parts of the world and did not migrate out of Africa (this used to be the basis upon which slavery was implied).

According to Carlos Bustamante, a co-author of the paper,  the changes in human genome does not mean that a particular population is more evolved or superior to another rather it indicates how humans have adapted to their newer environment, developed digestion of newer sources of food, and how they have developed resistance to local infectious pathogens.

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