8 Wonderfully Weird Facts About Human Evolution

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-face-fit-for-punches-20140609-story.html Source: Latimes.com

Evolution is one of the most curious and fascinating processes in nature. Shaped by sex, death and happenstance over the course of millennia, evolution is the essence of what caused our species to stand upright on the plains of Africa six million years ago. But the evolution of Homo sapiens, from our discovery of fire to our development of sophisticated technologies, is a tale as long and complicated as the evolutionary process itself. And as scientists continue to examine our evolutionary history, new information is emerging that helps explain how the past shaped us into the beings we are today. Here are a few strange facts you might not have realized about how we came to be.

8. Human Longevity Could Stem From Our Slow Metabolism

Along with other primates, humans burn roughly 50% percent fewer calories than other mammals. This means that we would literally have to run daily marathons if we were to come anywhere close to burning the same number of calories that other similar sized mammals go through on an average day.

According to a recent study, the reason for this is directly linked to our slower metabolism, which researchers believe accounts for our drawn-out growth periods and longer life spans. By comparison, most other mammals, such as dogs and cats, rarely live more than 15 years. It’s now believed that environmental conditions played a big part in the evolution of the slow metabolisms that granted us increased longevity.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aimee-vlachos/how-running-keeps-me-sane_b_4690719.html Source: Huffingtonpost.com

7. Our Hands Evolved to Punch Stuff

When compared to apes, the same features that enable us to clench our fists—strong, flexible thumbs and shorter palms—also grant us the dexterity create and manipulate tools. However, while chimpanzees can make some rudimentary tools, apes as a group are unable to clench their fists.

Using a clenched fist for striking allows us to deliver a forceful blow without hurting ourselves much. By bracing the top pads of our fingers against the bottom pads and wrapping them with our thumb, we effectively transform our appendages into nice little bludgeoning devices that can be used to deliver a good bashing.

Researchers believe that the violent, aggressive nature of humans resulted in our bodies evolving into fighting machines and fists became useful for attacking, defence, or straight intimidation. With so much creative potential and destructive power residing in our hands, could it be that the evolution of the fist is the source of the good and evil inherent to our civilization?

http://www.medicaldaily.com/heart-attacks-8-times-more-likely-follow-bouts-intense-anger-323292 Source: Medicaldaily.com

6. Our Faces Evolved to Take a Punch

With hands perfectly suited for decking someone right in the jaw, it makes sense that the evolutionary arms race would result in our faces taking on certain characteristics that allow it to better absorb the impact of a punch. It was once thought that the human face, with its distinctive flat structure and hard bones, was designed primarily to help us bite things and consume tough foods like seeds and nuts. But this theory has come under scrutiny since recent archaeological evidence has suggested that our ancestors survived on a diet primarily comprised of fruits. According to scientists at the University of Utah, it’s now thought that the bone structure acts as a kind of defensive armoring that helps us withstand being punched in the face. Researchers believe that human males developed durable faces to help lessen the injury from facial punches sustained during fights over food, territory and women.

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-face-fit-for-punches-20140609-story.html Source: Latimes.com

5. Our Brains are Shrinking

We now know that our brains are actually getting smaller. Skeletal evidence from every inhabited continent suggests that our brains have shrunk significantly from the size they used to be 20,000 years ago. But scientists are still unclear as to why this is happening and whether or not it will effect our intelligence in the long run. One theory suggests that a smaller brain is actually more efficient. This would make sense since signals passing through a smaller brain wouldn’t have to travel as far, which could make the mind quicker and more agile. But perhaps a more likely notion is that the smaller brain size is actually a result of humans effectively domesticating themselves. Domesticated animals like dogs, cats, sheep and cattle all have brains that are smaller than their wild ancestral counterparts. Some think that the large, densely populated cities that we now live in have created labor divisions to the extent that we no longer have to think as much for ourselves or come up with innovative new ideas to survive. In this sense it could be true that our brains, even with their increased knowledge, actually don’t function as well as they used to.

http://growcompare.eu/marijuana-and-stroke-study-shows-cannabis-compounds-protect-brain/ Source: Growcompare.eu

4. Hobbits Were Real

Although they probably didn’t go on epic quests and battle dark forces, a Hobbit-like species of human called Homo floresiensis actually used to live and breathe on the island of Flores in Indonesia. It’s thought that they might have developed their pint-sized stature from an evolutionary phenomenon known as island dwarfism which causes an isolated population to shrink down into miniature versions of their ancestors.

Perhaps no more than 12,000 years ago these early humans stood about a meter tall and were able to make use of stone tools and fire to do things like hunt animals and forage at night. They probably even came into contact with and killed predators like komodo dragons, which, at their size, could be comparable to a battle with Smaug.

http://www.suggest-keywords.com/ZWJ1ICBnb2dv/ Source: suggest-Keywords.com

3. Left Handed People Are More Competitive Than Right Handed People

Since only 10% percent of the global population is left handed, you’d think this trait that would have been bred out of existence by now. And yet it persists. Thankfully, researchers at Northwestern University think they’ve discovered the reason why. According to them, the balance of left-handers and right-handers in the human population perfectly aligns with the balance of competition and cooperation involved in human evolution. Their study was prompted by the apparent disproportionate amount of lefties that seem to excel in competitive sports. Using real world data from a number of different sports, a correlation between left handedness and competitiveness was determined. It was also found that the data could be used to predict the percentage of lefties present in any given group.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/left-handed-people-earn-10-less-than-right-handed-people-study-finds-9911088.html Source: Independent.co.uk

2. Our Ability to Throw Objects is a Defining Human Characteristic

Two million years ago our ancient ancestors used to throw rocks and wooden spears to help them hunt and kill prey. But the ability to accurately throw an object with enough force to cause a fatal injury is something that is uniquely human. Even chimps, who have a genetic makeup that is 95% identical to ours, can scarcely throw a pitch any faster than 10-year-old kid. So, in an effort to uncover the secrets behind our amazing throwing ability, researchers from Harvard University and George Washington University conducted a study involving college baseball pitchers. What they found was that the human shoulder acts in much the way a slingshot does by storing up and the releasing energy during a throw. It turns out that there are special features present in the human arm, shoulder, and torso that evolved specifically to help us stord release energy this way. Consequently, our ancestors were able hunt and kill big game extremely effectively. This then led to our species increased consumption of meat which prompted the evolution of our larger brains and bodies that eventually gave rise to human civilization as we know it today.

http://www.mister-baseball.com/alex-maestri-impressive-chicago-cubs-debut/ Source: Mister-baseball.com

1. We’re the Product of Chance Events

In an experiment designed to see how human evolution could have turned out differently, scientists at the University of Chicago played around with something they call “molecular time travel.” They started with a devolved version of key human protein that over the course of millions of years evolution would eventually become a cellular receptor for the stress hormone cortisol. The goal was to map how that ancient protein evolved to become sensitive to cortisol. After an exhaustive study, the researchers found that the only explanation was the appearance of two random and extremely unlikely mutations. So, if this is the method by which proteins evolve new functions, it would mean that, with just a few genetic twists of fate, humans could have turned out to be an entirely different creature.

http://phys.org/news/2014-06-evolution-rare-chance-events-molecular.html Source: Phys.org

Wes Walcott

Wes Walcott

Wes is a devourer of media. He ravenously consumes podcasts, books, and TV shows with seemingly no regard for review scores or subject matter. If encountered in the wild, Wes is said to respond positively to verbal cues relating to X-Men or the SNES. The subject can be easily captured and tamed using Transformers or Gundam models.