Did Microbes Shape the Human Life Span?

Dec 26, 2014

Credit: www.royaltystockphoto.com/Shutterstock.com

By Tia Ghose

The microbes that live in and on humans may have evolved to preferentially take down the elderly in the population, a new computer model suggests.

That, in turn, could have allowed children a greater share of food and resources, thereby enabling an extended childhood. Such a microbial bias may also have kept the first human populations more stable and resilient to upheavals, the findings suggest.

“If you go back 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, there were only 30,000 to 40,000 people in the world and they were scattered over Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia,” study co-author Glenn Webb, a mathematician at Vanderbilt University, said in a statement. “Are we lucky just to be here? Or did we survive because our ancestors were robust enough to handle all the environmental changes and natural disasters they encountered?”

The new findings suggest that humans survived because as a whole, ancestral human populations were tough enough to survive the environment, he said.


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3 comments on “Did Microbes Shape the Human Life Span?

  • Of course we’re here because our ancestors were “tough enough” to survive the environment. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t.

    There’s also pretty conclusive evidence that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals in Europe and Asia. Neanderthals had survived extremes of climate for hundreds of thousands of years. I recently watched a documentary in which geneticists hypothesized that the genes inherited from Neanderthals are genes for disease resistance and other adaptations, such as cold resistance and lighter skin, that may have helped us survive in Ice Age northern Europe and Asia. When modern humans first entered Europe and Asia, they would have encountered Neanderthals and new microbes that their immune systems had never seen before. Interbreeding with Neanderthals may have given us resistance to these new microbes and enabled modern humans to survive where we might otherwise have not. At the same time, I wonder if microbes brought out of Africa and the Middle East by modern humans didn’t contribute to the extinction of the Neanderthals.



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  • 2
    John Gohde says:

    The elderly got to be elderly precisely because Darwinism took out all the truly stupid, long before. I find the slant of this article very offensive.

    Furthermore, the article virtually states nothing of any substance. If anything ALL the authors involved with this article are a total waste for trying pass off this drivel as science.

    As a senior citizen, I am certainly not in the least afraid of dying from microbes. Only a fool would depend upon conventional medicine for good health. My mother raised no fool.

    How about providing articles with some meat on them?



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  • John Gohde Dec 29, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Furthermore, the article virtually states nothing of any substance. If anything ALL the authors involved with this article are a total waste for trying pass off this drivel as science.

    Oh dear! Your inability to recognise science of substance, seems to be initiating the psychological projection of your incredulity.

    As a senior citizen, I am certainly not in the least afraid of dying from microbes.

    Perhaps you should inform MRSA, Cdiff, Cholora and Typhoid, of this! _ They seem to kill quite a lot of people.

    Only a fool would depend upon conventional medicine for good health.

    Those who have benefited from surgery, hormone therapies and antibiotics would likely disagree.



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