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:4/13/2016)... 2016  IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients in ... clinical standard in telehealth thanks to a new partnership ... platform, IMPOWER patients can routinely track key health measurements, ... index, and, when they opt in, share them with ... a local retail location at no cost. By leveraging ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... , March 31, 2016  Genomics firm Nabsys ... founding CEO, Barrett Bready , M.D., who returned ... of the original technical leadership team, including Chief Technology ... of Product Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice President of ... to the company. Dr. Bready served as ...
(Date:3/23/2016)... 23, 2016 ... Gesichts- und Stimmerkennung mit Passwörtern     ... MESG ), ein führender Anbieter digitaler ... mit SpeechPro zusammenarbeitet, um erstmals dessen Biometrietechnologie ... die Möglichkeit angeboten, im Rahmen mobiler Apps ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... , ... Intelligent Implant Systems announced today that the two-level components for the ... United States. These components expand the capabilities of the system and allow Revolution™ ... October of 2015, the company has seen significant sales growth in 1Q 2016, and ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... ... April 28, 2016 , ... ... will deliver a talk on its first-in-class technologies for tissue stem cell counting ... on RNAiMicroRNA Biology to Reprogramming & CRISPR-based Genome Engineering in Burlington, Massachusetts. ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... ... The Pittcon Organizing Committee is pleased to announce that Charles “Chuck” Gardner was named ... 1987. Since then, he has served in a number of key leadership positions including ... program and exposition committees. In his professional career, Dr. Gardner is the director of ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... 27, 2016 , ... NDA Partners Chairman Carl Peck, ... Expert Consultant. Mr. Clark was formerly a Vice President with US Pharmacopeia, ... molecule monographs based on analytical methods. NDA Partners Expert Consultants are top ...
Breaking Biology Technology: