Evidence of Contemporary Modern Human Evolution Contained Within the Human Genome
Platter, Branden E.
Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal
The question of whether or not modern humans are still evolving is being asked more than ever with the vast amount of technology, culture and medicine which have the ability to buffer environmental stressors that would otherwise drive evolutionary adaptations in humans. The purpose of this paper was to determine, in spite of these "advances," if modern humans are still evolving by searching for proof within the human genome. The three prime examples of current evolution discussed are: certain populations' resistance to malaria, lactase persistence and resistance to HIV, each of which are adaptations regulated by mutant alleles. Each adaptation was broken down by the different mutations responsible for that adaptation. In order to determine if these mutations are, in fact, evidence of modern evolution, they were each subjected to a strict list of criteria necessary to be deemed adaptive and evolutionary. In all cases except one, the mutations passed the criteria and are considered proof that modern humans are still evolving. It is concluded that even though modern humans have the ability to buffer environmental stressors that would typically cause evolutionary changes, not all of these can be buffered and as a result, the human genome is evolving to adapt to these stressors.