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How Farming Reshaped Our Genomes 144

sciencehabit writes "The earliest farmers may not have been built for the profession. They may have been unable to digest starch and milk, according to a new ancient DNA study of a nearly 8000-year-old human skeleton from Spain (a hunter-gatherer who had dark skin and blue eyes). But these pioneers did already possess immune defenses against some of the diseases that would later become the scourge of civilization. The findings are helping researchers understand what genetic and biological changes humans went through as they made the transition from hunting and gathering to farming."
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How Farming Reshaped Our Genomes

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  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:17PM (#46083645)
    Because shaving was all but impossible before metal tools that could be sharpened enough to actually shave... copper tools were some 3000 years after this fossil.
  • by E++99 ( 880734 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:32PM (#46083811) Homepage

    Flynt is sharper than any copper knife.
    Obsidian is sharper than any copper knife.
    Tribal people shave with flint to this day.
    There is archaeological evidence of shaving going back 20,000 years.

  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:34PM (#46083849)

    All mammals are, by definition, born with the ability to digest milk, therefore they have the genes to do that. It can happen that those genes are epi-genitically turned off in adults that are not exposed to milk. However, the genes would be still there.

    Thus I'm extremely doubtful that any genetic studies could have revealed the lack of milk digesting genes. And since I don't see how they could assess any epi-genetic state of a long dead individual I really wonder about how they arrived at that conclusion.

  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:52PM (#46084037)
    The composition of the milks are different. Cow milk contains more protein in general, and some proteins that are not found in human milk. Some people are unable to process those proteins. Also, intolerance to milk of any kind generally occurs later in life. If an individual were not able to digest it in infancy they would die and their genes would not be passed on. Perhaps with modern medical science, they would live, but this would not have been the case thousands of years ago.
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @04:15PM (#46084361)

    Humans, like most mammals, can universally digest lactose in childhood. Also, like most mammals, the gene for producing lactase largely shuts down in adulthood, since in nature, it's largely unneeded and a waste of energy resources. People descended from milk-drinking cultures (mostly Europeans) have variations of a gene that prevent lactase production from turning off in adulthood.

    Of course, this has little to nothing to do with breasts, since humans are the only primates that have visible breasts when not nursing their newborn young, and even then they are much, much smaller than in humans. It's most likely they exist purely for sexual signalling (like a peacock's tail), since their size is mostly irrelevant to their function in child-rearing.

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @04:20PM (#46084419)

    Incas had potatoes. It does not need to be a grain. But starchy foods are usually more effective in useful energy generated per acre.

    In the Pacific breadfruit was the staple. However it was so easy to grow there that there wasn't a lot of work 'farming' anything.

  • Re:At the time .... (Score:4, Informative)

    by suutar ( 1860506 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @04:36PM (#46084627)
    and a reduction in average physical activity

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake