Farming Sped Eurasian Evolution

New clues from ancient DNA reveal the remarkable effect of agriculture on adaptation in Stone Age humans who lived across Europe.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Nov 24, 2015

WIKIMEDIA, BERNARD BILL5Stone Age human populations that adopted farming rapidly evolved traits that helped them survive a more sedentary lifestyle, according to researchers studying the ancient DNA of 230 people who lived in Western Eurasia millennia ago. The results of the massive genomic effort were published this week (November 23) in Nature. Among other insights, the international team of researchers suggested that ancient Eurasians who adopted agriculture around 8,000 years ago rapidly evolved genes that helped them metabolize fats, digest milk, and fight off infections associated with higher population densities.

“It’s a change in the food people are eating. It’s a change in social organization. People are living in much bigger communities. People are living in much closer proximity to animals,” Harvard geneticist and study coauthor Iain Mathieson told The Washington Post.

The results of the genomic analysis also support the notion that agriculture came to Europe via...

Interested in reading more?

Farming Sped Eurasian Evolution

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?