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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Halt In Primate Evolution Due To Changes In Smell And Diet

Have you ever stopped to smell the roses? Yeah? Maybe that's why human beings do not seem to be evolving.

By the way... let me diverge... at the bottom is a music video you can listen to as you read this. 

Japanese researchers Niimura Yoshihito, Matsui Atsushi, and Touhara Kazushige (all surname first), have postulated that human sense of smell (which has degenerated with evolution and civilizing) and our change in diet, has played a large role in the human evolution, namely it has practically stopped it.

I think... I've had to decode their science journals talk into English.  

While Marvel Comics might suggest that the rise of the mutant—Homo superior—is here, real world science begs to differ, as modern human beings (Homo sapiens sapiens) have been around for about 300,000 years… or maybe it’s less than that… but scientist believe that for the past 195,000 years there has been no further evolution of the human being as we stand (or sit in front of a computer).

Of course, between 300,000 years ago and 195,000 years ago, the human creature has split into various subspecies that just didn’t cut it in the modern world, as Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal) and Homo sapiens idaltu went extinct 40,000 and 160,000 years ago, respectively. 

And, for whatever reason—a larger function of working brain, better ability to walk upright, ability to utilize fire and weaponry, and ability to adapt—Homo sapiens sapiens (that’s us) has endured.

You can tell I kindda dig writing about this stuff.

As a younger version on myself, I wanted to either be an astronaut or a paleontologist (though I might have said spaceman and dinosaur digger), while a next generation of me wanted to be a zoologist or a anthropologist, and did use the correct terms.

Who knew you had to study science and so well in those courses?!?!   

In university I had thoughts of becoming an astronomer (if I can’t fly to space, I could at least look at it), but then I learned you had to work nights, so I said forget it and wasted five years in university doing political science.

I was always a very curious child, and luckily my parents always had a wide array of books on the shelves that I would sneak a look at, as well as a subscription to National Geographic - which I think we should all get NOW. Me, included. The fantastic photos draw in the curious eye, and because you are curious you want to learn more and so you read…

I would say that the National Geographic, and the adventures of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck (as written and drawn by Carl Barks) played a huge role in my curiosity about the world. The comic books because Carl Barks wrote adventures based on historical fact and fiction. How can that NOT make you curious to learn more?  Barks would also base his settings on images he saw in National Geographic to provide the reader (whether they were aware of it or not) a real perspective. yeah, you will believe pantless ducks can talk. Anthropomorphism. Look it up.Oh okay, it means: the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.

Anyhow… while some smart-ass kids and adults will ask that if evolution happened, and humans evolved from the monkeys (it was the apes), why are their still monkeys (apes, I said)? 

Back in the old days, when things and people were evolving physically and mentally, perhaps an ape or two simply evolved from a chimp or gorilla-like creature… a mutant… a Homo superior not in name (sorry, Marvel), but in form that was different from its parents, with traits that allowed it to better cope with it environment.

Breed with the older stock of human, and presto…  a new line of human creature emerges with an ability to use a deer femur as a weapon.

According to the Smithsonian Institute (go to Washington and visit the museums!!!), over the past six million years, from humanity’s earliest ancestors, there have been changes that occurred in brain and body size, locomotion, diet, and other aspects.

Why… ? I don’t know… more radiation in the atmosphere? Or  maybe just like a chicken’s egg will eventually grow and mature into a rooster, perhaps the earliest hominids were simply just growing to become what we are now.

But is this all there is? Have human beings reached the apex of human evolution? Will we not develop gills and become Homo mermanus? Will we never grow heavy and drive a bus and be annoyed by our neighbor Barney Rubble, I mean Ed Norton and thus become Homina homina?
I went a long way for that joke. Sorry. I guess I am a mental case. People aged 50 and up will get that.
In the past, primates like ourselves have been thought of as being vision-oriented creatures but lacking in olfactory abilities... which means we tend to see things, rather than smell them... which is the opposite for creatures like a tiger that smell prey long before they see them.

But is that primate statement actually always been true? Did we have a greater sense of smell, and have had it greatly reduced because we stopped relying on it?

The Japanese researchers decided to try and find out.

They looked at the olfactory receptor (OR) genes from 24 phylogenetically and ecologically diverse primate species. I looked up the word phylogenetic, and that's basically the evolution tree... so they looked up 24 primates from the same basic evolutionary tree.

They found that strepsirrhines (a suborder of primates such as lemurs (King Julian from Penguins of Madagascar), galagos (think bushbabies), pottos and lorises, etc.) with curved noses had functional OR gene repertoires that were nearly twice as large as those for haplorhines with simple noses.

Haplorhines—aka the dry noses—are primates from the suborder with tasiers (carnivire primates... insects, really) and simians (humans, Old World monkeys like baboons, as well as apes—such as gorillas and chimps).

They tested against nocturnal or daytime activity, color vision, and none showed a relationship with the number of functional OR genes.

However, phylogeny (evolution of a species) and nose structure in both are statistically-controlled... but they found that the extent of folivory (leaf eating) was interesting. 

They traced the evolutionary fates of individual OR genes by identifying orthologous gene groups (Come on! Now they're just making words up! No? Crap... let's see... it means genes in different species that evolved from a common ancestral gene by speciation... which means that finding these orthologs is key in determining if something is evolving within a species). 

The rates of OR gene losses were accelerated at the ancestral branch of haplorhines (the dry nose primates like us - except when it's allergy season), which coincided with the acquisition of acute vision.

Basically they found that as haplorhine vision grew better, their olfactory sense were depended upon less, and grew weaker... in an evolutionary way.

Conversely, you know how blind people are able to hear better than the average person... that's actually bull crap. They hear just as well as you or I... the fact is, however, that they listen better because they choose to.

The scientists discovered that the highest rate of OR gene loss was with the ancestral branch of leaf-eating colobines (leaf eating primates), and as such they believe that the reduction of OR gene loss may have occurred with a dietary transition from frugivory (fruit eating) to folivory (leaf eating)...

... and because you need better olfactory senses when eating fruits than you do leaves when foraging, that's why the scientists believe that the OR gene loss ws due to a dietary change.

They also found, interesting enough, an accelerations of OR gene losses in an external branch to every hominoid species examined (the 24 in the test sample).

These findings suggest that the current OR gene repertoire in each species has been shaped by a complex interplay of phylogeny (evolution), anatomy, and habitat, which means that there are more than likely multiple factors as to why primates suffered olfactory degeneration.

Scientists... they need to learn how to write in English.

Seriously... why send out a press release about your work in a science journal if no one can understand it with a higher primate (me) around to decode it?   

Andrew Joseph
PS: Below is the dance mix version of Homosapien by Pete Shelley - back when I would by an album if there was even one song on it that I liked. This was it.

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