UCL in the News: Human evolution is 'speeding up'
11 December 2007
In the past 5,000 years, genetic change has occurred at a rate roughly 100 times higher than any other period, say scientists in the US.
A large population has more genetic variation and allows for more positive selection than a small one. …
However, geneticist Professor Steve Jones [UCL Biology] said suggesting a large population size could increase the speed of evolution was "a contentious issue".
"Once a population gets above a very small size it is not very clear if its ability to respond to natural selection depends on size," he told BBC News.
"The general picture that evolution has speeded up in the last 10,000 years as we change from, to put it bluntly, being animals to being humans is clearly true," he explained. "To suggest it is happening at this instant, I would suggest, is probably wrong." …
"At the moment we are in an evolutionary interval. We are in between two storms. One storm has more or less blown itself out, the storm of farming.
"The question is whether we are going to stay in the calms or whether another great storm will start. And if there is one, I would say it is most certainly to do with epidemic disease." …
Anna-Marie Lever, BBC News