The fundamental structure of human populations has changed exactly twice in evolutionary history. The second time was in the past 150 years, when the average lifespan doubled in most parts of the world. The first time was in the Paleolithic, probably around 30,000 years ago. That’s when old people were basically invented.
Throughout hominid history, it was exceedingly rare for individuals to live more than 30 years. Paleoanthropologists can examine teeth to estimate how old a hominid was when it died, based on which teeth are erupted, how worn down they are, and the amount of a tissue called dentin. Anthropologist Rachel Caspari of Central Michigan University used teeth to identify the ratio of old to young people in Australopithecenes from 3 million to 1.5 million years ago, early Homo species from 2 million to 500,000 years ago, and Neanderthals from 130,000 years ago. Old people—old here means older than 30 (sorry)—were a vanishingly small part of the population. When she looked at modern humans from the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, though, she found the ratio reversed—there were twice as many adults who died after age 30 as those who died young.
Excerpt from an article written by Laura Helmuth at Slate. Continue THERE
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By comparing the testosterone levels of five-month old pairs of twins, both identical and non-identical, University of Montreal researchers were able to establish that testosterone levels in infancy are not inherited genetically but rather determined by environmental factors.
“Testosterone is a key hormone for the development of male reproductive organs, and it is also associated with behavioral traits, such as sexual behavior and aggression,” said lead author Dr. Richard E. Tremblay of the university’s Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment. “Our study is the largest to be undertaken with newborns, and our results contrast with the findings gained by scientists working with adolescents and adults, indicating that testosterone levels are inherited.”
The findings were presented in an article published in Psychoneuroendocrinology on May 7, 2012.
The researchers took saliva samples from 314 pairs of twins and measured the levels of testosterone. They then compared the similarity in testosterone levels between identical and fraternal twins to determine the contribution of genetic and environmental factors. Results indicated that differences in levels of testosterone were due mainly to environmental factors. “The study was not designed to specifically identify these environmental factors which could include a variety of environmental conditions, such as maternal diet, maternal smoking, breastfeeding and parent-child interactions.”
“Because our study suggests that testosterone levels in infants are determined by the circumstances in which the child develops before and after birth, further studies will be needed to find out exactly what these influencing factors are and to what extent they change from birth to puberty,” Tremblay said.
Text and Image via Science Daily.