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:5/20/2016)... 20, 2016  VoiceIt is excited to announce ... By working together, VoiceIt and VoicePass ... and VoicePass take slightly different approaches to voice ... security and usability. ... new partnership. "This marketing and technology ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... DUBAI , UAE, May 9, 2016 ... choice when it comes to expanding freedom for high ... Even in today,s globally connected world, there ... online conferencing system could ever duplicate sealing your deal ... are obtaining second passports by taking advantage of citizenship ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... , April 28, 2016 First quarter ... (139.9), up 966% compared with the first quarter of 2015 ... totaled SEK 589.1 M (loss: 18.8) and the operating margin was ... (loss: 0.32) Cash flow from operations was SEK 249.9 ... 2016 revenue guidance is unchanged, SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the ... such as the Cary 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end machines that ... the height of the spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016   Boston Biomedical , an ... designed to target cancer stemness pathways, announced that ... Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. Food and ... cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin is ... inhibit cancer stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , ... tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, the Industry Network ... Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s mission is ... projects are designed, built and brought to market. , The Design Lab is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: