Navigation Links
The way we weren't: U of Minnesota biologist debunks myth that humans peaked in Paleolithic era
Date:3/5/2013

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (03/05/2013) Have agriculture, technology, diet and lifestyle changes put humans out of touch with the way we evolved? And would we be healthier and happier if we lived, at least to some extent, the way our Paleolithic ancestors did?

The abundance of Paleo diet and lifestyle recommendations suggests the answer is yes. But University of Minnesota evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk is skeptical. The Paleo ideal is a myth based on speculation rather than science, she says. As a skilled writer with an engaging sense of humor, she does an informative and entertaining job of debunking this myth in her new book, "Paleofantasy: "What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live," to be published by W.W. Norton on March 11.

Paleo proponents claim that humans fully evolved as hunter-gatherers and that the development of agriculture triggered a downward spiral, causing disease and social conflicts. But that, Zuk says, is a paleofantasy without scientific basis.

"There's widespread misunderstanding about how evolution works, particularly how fast it happens," Zuk says. "To think of ourselves as misfits in our own time and of our own making flatly contradicts what science has revealed about the way evolution works; namely, that we can adapt over just a few generations."

Genes continuously appear in and disappear from the human genome. Some remain for millions of years, others for much shorter periods, Zuk says. Evolution is a series of compromises and tradeoffs because genes have more than one function, and interact in complicated ways.

"By focusing on how we were in Paleolithic times, we overlook the ways we've changed since then. New tools in evolutionary biology and genetics are helping us understand how change happens, and which parts of the genome change quickly vs. slowly. Understanding that difference in people as well as other organisms is much more interesting to me than trying to hew to a version of how our ancestors might have lived."

Some of the work Zuk and her students have been doing on crickets found in Hawaii shows that a completely new trait, a wing mutation that renders males silent, spread in just five years, fewer than 20 generations.

If we want to learn from evolution, Zuk says, we should study rapid evolution rather than "holding up our flabby selves against a vision accurate or not of our well-muscled and harmoniously adapted ancestors" to understand how we have adapted to relatively recent changes in our environment and how we may continue to adapt as our environment changes.

Zuk is a professor of ecology, evolution and behavior in the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences. Her previous books include "Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World" and "Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn About Sex From Animals." She frequently contributes topical articles about biology to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and other mainstream media.


'/>"/>

Contact: Matt Hodson
mjhodson@umn.edu
612-625-0552
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. University of Minnesota engineering researchers discover new non-invasive method for diagnosing epilepsy
2. University of Minnesota receives $13.1 million in DOE funding for 2 new nationwide centers
3. Antimicrobials from personal care products found in statewide survey of Minnesotas rivers and lakes
4. University of Minnesota startup offers game-changing energy solutions that reduce CO2 emissions
5. University of Minnesota invention helps advance reliability of alternative energy
6. Developmental biologist Arthur Lander named Donald Bren Professor
7. Biologists explore link between amphibian behavior and deadly disease
8. Biologists lead international team to track Arctic response to climate change
9. Biologists map rare case of fitness-reducing interaction in nuclear, mitochondrial DNA
10. Biologistics: How fast do chemical trains move in living cells?
11. Campus as laboratory: U-M student biologists use Diag trees to help solve gypsy moth mystery
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/13/2017)... MONICA, Calif. , April 13, 2017 ... New York will feature emerging and evolving ... Summits. Both Innovation Summits will run alongside the expo ... of speaker sessions, panels and demonstrations focused on trending ... coast,s largest advanced design and manufacturing event will take ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ:   NXTD ) ... appointment of independent Directors Mr. Robin D. Richards ... Directors, furthering the company,s corporate governance and expertise. ... Gino Pereira , Chief Executive ... their guidance and benefiting from their considerable expertise as we ...
(Date:4/4/2017)... 2017   EyeLock LLC , a leader of ... States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued U.S. ... of an iris image with a face image acquired ... company,s 45 th issued patent. ... given the multi-modal biometric capabilities that have recently come ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)...  VMS BioMarketing, a leading provider of patient support solutions, ... Educator (CNE) network, which will launch this week. The VMS ... care professionals to enhance the patient care experience by delivering ... health care professionals to help women who have been diagnosed ... ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... ... Disappearing forests and increased emissions are the main causes of the evolving air ... living in larger cities are affected by air pollution related diseases. , That is ... globally - decided to take action. , “I knew I had to take action ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... Bay, Florida (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 ... ... and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug designation to SBT-100, its novel ... (sdAb) for the treatment of osteosarcoma. SBT-100 is able to cross the cell ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) therapeutics, today confirmed licensing rights that give it ... Nanoparticle), a technology developed in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). ...
Breaking Biology Technology: