"When did modern humans branch off as an independent species?"

Where human evolution is taking us


Sat, Oct 10th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Since humans not only have branched off into an independent species, but continue to evolve, Hope&Fears speaks to five experts on human evolution who give their expertise on what is in stock next for homo sapiens.

“Only 10,000 years ago, like all mammals, our young lost the ability to digest milk sugar (lactose) after they stopped nursing, because the lactase enzyme which allows lactose to be digested was no longer produced,” Pobiner tells Hopes&Fears. “But now millions of adults have what is called lactase persistence, when the enzyme continues to be produced into adulthood. This varies around the world, but it is generally associated with populations that domesticated milk-producing animals like cows and goats, mainly in areas of Africa and Europe.”

She added, “It turns out that multiple, independent genetic mutations facilitated this change, which speaks to strong (and recent) natural selection for the ability to digest lactose. Ancient DNA from skeletons in Europe demonstrates that this ability appeared less than 6,500 years ago in that area.”



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