It seems that humans are evolving at rates faster than ever before. Two examples: wisdom teeth and arteries. Wisdom teeth may be on the way out. An extra artery is becoming more common.
It seems that more and more adults have an extra artery in their arms as humans continue to evolve at a rapid rate, a study has found.
Scientists in Australia believe that humans are undergoing a micro-evolution in which evolutionary changes can be observed over a short period of time.
The artery forms while a baby is in the womb and is the main vessel that supplies blood to the forearm and hand, but it usually disappears during gestation and is replaced by the radial and ulnar arteries. However, some people retain all three.
The investigation by Dr Teghan Lucas of Flinders University in Adelaide, along with Professor Maciej Henneberg and Dr Jaliya Kumaratilake of the University of Adelaide, showed a “significant increase” in the prevalence of the median artery since the late 19th Century.
“The prevalence was around 10 per cent in people born in the mid-1880s compared to 30 per cent in those born in the late 20th Century, so that’s a significant increase in a fairly short period of time, when it comes to evolution,” she said.
“But increasing numbers of cases retain it, so a person can have all three arteries,” the authors wrote. “People born 80 years from now will all carry a median artery if the trend continues.”Dr Lucas said the study demonstrates that humans are evolving at a faster rate than at any point in the past 250 years.
The median artery is not the only example of ongoing human evolution. Many babies are being born without wisdom teeth. Dr Lucas said faces are becoming a lot shorter, with smaller jaws meaning there is less room for teeth.
It's suspected that wisdom teeth are on the way out because we don't gnaw on hard foods much any longer. Our diets have changed. We eat soft foods.
As for the extra artery, if nothing else the medicos say it'll be a welcome source of a spare blood vessel for bypass and other surgeries.
Then there's the possibility that an ability to evolve relatively quickly might just come in handy as our environment evolves rapidly. Probably not fast enough though.