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"The genetic evolution of humans in the very recent past might in some ways be linked to the cultural evolution," he said.Other scientists urge great caution in interpreting the research.
"There's a sense we as humans have kind of peaked," agreed Greg Wray, director of Duke University's Center for Evolutionary Genomics.
Gray and Atkinson analysed 87 languages from Irish to Afghan.
Rather than compare entire dictionaries, they used a list of 200 words that are found in all cultures, such as 'I', 'hunt' and 'sky'.
So suggests new research that tracked changes in two genes thought to help regulate brain growth, changes that appeared well after the rise of modern humans 200,000 years ago.
That the defining feature of humans — our large brains — continued to evolve as recently as 5,800 years ago, and may be doing so today, promises to surprise the average person, if not biologists.In fact, the variations were so common they couldn't be accidental mutations but instead were probably due to natural selection, where genetic changes that are favorable to a species quickly gain a foothold and begin to spread, the researchers report.