(ORDO NEWS) — Thousands of years ago, we Homo sapiens shared space with Neanderthals and many other so-called hominids. As a result, we remained the only human species on the planet. But is there any chance evolution will spawn a new species? Or maybe this process is already underway? Quite likely, scientists say as reported by Videnskab, Denmark.
Thousands of years ago, we were not alone. We homo sapiens shared space with the Neanderthals and many other so-called hominids.
But in the end, we surpassed and supplanted all other members of the human race. And they were left alone.
Could it be possible that some more variety of ourselves will ever sprout from us, so that this party of cousins will not be so lonely? Our reader Toucan would like to know this. In an email, he asked, “Through evolution over time, a new species could emerge from the species to which we Homo sapiens belong. Are there signs already now that this will happen? And can we somehow predict what this new species will be like and how it will differ from the current person?”
How a new kind of person appears
Theoretically, a new kind of person can appear – and not even one. There are no immutable species, and man is no exception. Our genes are constantly mutating, and if the genetic differences between different groups become large enough, a new species could arise.
Jesper Givskov Sørensen, professor of biology at the University of Aarhus, answers something like this. However, he adds that it will be a long time before we see a new species of man.
“Mutations in genes are the fuel of evolution, but this alone is not enough for the emergence of new species. Only when mutations as a result of selection provide beneficial properties or randomly spread to the entire population, there are prerequisites for the formation of a genetic difference between populations, which can lead to the emergence of a new species.
Mutations happen all the time. Therefore, it is also wrong to say that man descended from a monkey. We just have a common ancestor with her. After all, monkeys are also constantly evolving, the scientist explains.
New guests at a family party
For genetic abnormalities to be sufficient for the emergence of a new species, it is necessary that the population is genetically isolated. For example, she must live in a relatively limited area.
Population or species?
What’s tricky with species is their coverage. In a scientific context, one can usually speak more accurately about populations. What organisms within the same territory can give birth to offspring?
“In fact, brown and polar bears mate. And they have offspring of such a slightly dirty color. Some of their genes are different, but most are the same. The polar bear is not a very ancient species, and, like all other species, it is constantly evolving, ”says Jesper Givskov Sørensen.
Homo sapiens thousands of years ago could also have joint children with Neanderthals. In modern man, you can still find the genetic traces of these hybrids.
“When people thought that God had arranged everything strictly into boxes, a clear meaning could be found in everything. But now we know that things are not so simple. It is difficult to find a suitable definition of the species,” explains Jesper Givskov Sørensen.
Historically, groups of people have lived in more disunity. This has led to what Jesper Givskov Sørensen calls morphological differences – that is, differences in skin color, eye shape or nose width. They were once called races.
“Although we look different, in fact, there is very little difference between people. And now we also mix a lot, so the difference is only narrowing.”
Globalization reduces the likelihood of a new species emerging.
“So given what the human species looks like now, nothing new is on the horizon yet. To be able to talk about the emergence of a new species, it is necessary for populations to live genetically isolated for hundreds of thousands of years, ”says the professor.
Will we turn into fish again?
In the 1995 film Waterworld, Kevin Costner’s character has gills and webbing between his toes. Thanks to mutations, Costner’s hero adapts to a wetter world in which people have to live after the polar ice has melted. Isn’t it possible to imagine that people will adapt to climate change in this way?
Jesper Givskov Sørensen rejects this option.
“Even if we really need a property, it will not automatically develop. It can appear by accident and is often not the ideal solution to the problem.”
Jesper Givskov Sørensen invites us to an imaginary laboratory of a scientist and explains what the actual scale of development of a new species is.
“Evolution is a bit like converting a family car into a Formula 1 car. There can be one random change at a time. The car goes faster with each change. But you can be given a gear when you really need a propeller. this system sometimes turns out to be very unusual.”
A living organism – like a car – cannot completely abandon its initial version, its “blueprint”. The giraffe is a great example of a kind of evolutionary machine. For thousands of years, he stretched his neck higher and higher to the tops of the trees. But the nerves in his neck also lengthened by several meters, says Jesper Givskov Sørensen.
“Evolution is unable to foresee anything. While it is in principle possible that a mutation like the one in the Waterworld could happen, the chances are very low. Plus, when it does, it should also be useful. desert, they will not make any sense, “says the professor.” It is more likely that the one who has gills will have some kind of defect, and the mutation will die with him.”
Cultural evolution is more powerful than biological
“There is definitely something in man that makes our evolution different. We can say that all the same mechanisms are relevant for humans as for animals, but we are also influenced by culture, “says Thomas Mailund, an evolutionary expert at Aarhus University, in his article” What will man be like in a million years. “
In fact, culture can exert more pressure on evolution than nature. Thousands of years ago, societies with knowledge of agriculture surpassed other Stone Age societies. This did not happen because the farmers had better genes. They had better technology.
Therefore, it is difficult to say what a person will be like in a million years, writes Thomas Mylund in the article. Much will depend on what our inventors come up with.
The same goes for current evolution. In winter, we dress warmly instead of developing physiology. When the ozone layer gets thinner, we use sunscreens to protect ourselves from ultraviolet radiation, notes Jesper Givskov Sørensen. This keeps us from dying of skin cancer.
“And even a pale-skinned guy like me can still have children and make them survive, even if the sun becomes even harsher,” the scientist laughs.
The welfare state here in the Nordic countries cares about the survival of children and, in principle, gives everyone a better chance. This – just as planned – stops biological competition.
Thus, natural evolution will not help us in any way adapt to climate change.
“So it is not at all necessary that something significant from the point of view of biology will happen to us, because we do not have any need to change physically. But we need to change our behavior.”
But it probably won’t be if we travel to the depths of the universe.
If the American businessman Elon Musk manages to create a colony on Mars, there will be preconditions for evolution.
“If you are only a hundred individuals, the genetic makeup can change very quickly,” says Jesper Givskov Sørensen. Here everything can happen rapidly.
If survival is not an accident – for example, some are better at tolerating cosmic radiation than others – we will see how humans begin to change. But humans have to change relatively strongly in order to transform into a different species.
“Human species of the future can be higher, lower, darker or lighter than we are now,” says Jesper Givskov Sørensen.
Thomas Mylund predicts that humans on Mars may be shorter than we are. The bases there are small, and the food supplies are also small.
“There is a tendency that on small isolated islands on Earth, animals are getting smaller due to lack of food. This has been seen, for example, on the island of Flores, where both humans and elephants have shrunk over time. One can imagine the same on Mars, if there is no unlimited amount of food. So the Martians will shrink in thousands of years,” says Thomas Mylund.
That is why, perhaps, one should not expect that gills and scales will appear instantly.
There are also signs that the person is already developing. This is called microevolution. So far, scientists have found the following signs in some people:
– Perhaps the disappearance of the little toes on the feet;
– a new vein in the hands;
– the disappearance of wisdom teeth.
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