This week we will be continuing our discussion of human evolution. Choose a trait that humans have that you are interested in and find a primary research paper (published within the last ten years) that traces it back in a phylogeny to a particular date (or tree location). Explain why the trait is beneficial (or not). Please be certain to give the full citation and DOI (if available). And please read through all the entries before submitting yours, so that you pick a novel article that has not yet been discussed!

For example, I chose the evolution of the appendix, which is shared by other mammal species besides us. In fact it has evolved independently 32 times! (Once in hominoids, so before the Orangutan-Gorilla split in our lineage). And what is interesting about this is that the appendix may indeed have a function – as a microbial refuge for the fauna that have evolved inside of our intestinal tracts! So, when a bad event (e.g. food poisoning and diarrhea) occurs, our microbes are expulsed from our guts, but those in the refuge of the appendix remain and repopulate our intestines! (Why is this a good thing? Better the microbe that helps you break down food and not the pathogen that will eat you from the inside out…).

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Smith et al. 2013. Multiple independent appearances of the cecal appendix in mammalian evolution and an investigation of related ecological and anatomical factors. Comptes Rendus Palevol 12(6): 339-354. (Links to an external site.)

So find a trait that you think is interesting, and trace its pathway back in time…

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