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180k-Year-Old Mutation Allowed Humans To Become Vegetarians, Move Out of Africa 342

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-eat-greens-food-eats-greens dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Early humans were able to move from Africa after a single genetic mutation allowed them to become vegetarians, scientists claim. The switch, which allowed humans to process vegetables, meant that humans were able to move away from water sources and spread across the continent. A team of geneticists compared DNA sequences from a variety of people around the world to see how different populations relate to one another and when they have gone their separate ways. The scientists found that a key genetic variant gave humans the ability to convert fats from plants into essential nutrients for the brain."
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180k-Year-Old Mutation Allowed Humans To Become Vegetarians, Move Out of Africa

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  • is it a mutation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sebastopol (189276) on Friday September 21, 2012 @04:14PM (#41414845) Homepage

    I'm always sensitive to any claims of "mutation X gave humans power Y" because mutations are so rarely beneficial, the majority of evolution comes from sexual inheritance and selection pressure.

    So how do they know it was a mutation? Its not like suddenly humans got a hunkering for plants one day. It had to happen gradually, so this gene must have been kicking around for ages, and must have appeared in multiple tribes; one mutated birth isn't going to suddenly diffuse across an entire species.

    Basically, I don't understand this article.

    Any experts out there want to demystify this for me a little more? How one random gene in one birth suddenly afflicts an entire population?

  • Vegetarians? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by houghi (78078) on Friday September 21, 2012 @04:14PM (#41414855)

    Vegetarians. You keep using that word, but I don't think it means what you think it means.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday September 21, 2012 @04:19PM (#41414915) Homepage

    ... being able to eat vegetables is not unusual for ANY monkey or ape. What is more if not most interesting is a genetic mutation which allows us to eat grains. Chimpanzees, for example, simply cannot process grains and as far as I have heard humans are the only primates which can.

  • Re:is it a mutation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kasperd (592156) on Friday September 21, 2012 @04:46PM (#41415253) Homepage Journal
    I think the question to ask is which came first, the meat-eaters or the plant-eaters? And how many times have meat-eaters evolved into plant-eaters, and vice versa? Maybe humans have ancestors even further back which were also plant-eaters? Could it be that most of the DNA required was already there and just needed a small mutation to become useful again? (There is some discussion as to how much of the DNA is really historical parts that could become active again, and how much is actually responsible for who what we are today.)

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