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Evolution of the Human foot (And future evolution of the homo sapien in general)


Arcesious
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One thing that's piqued my interest of late has been considering the human foot when compared to what it would have been is we trace back our origins to the diverging point of early hominids.

 

If you look at your foot, you'll notice how little use the toes are for anything other than balance now. We don't use them like we do our hands. But then look at our closest relatives - they use their feet for the same purposes as their hands, and they primarily walk on all four limbs.

 

The toes in our feet hardly ever see any use anymore except for balance - unlike our close relatives.

 

This suggests to me an interesting idea - what may our feet look like in the far future, after many more generations, assuming our species survives that long? A lot can happen in several thousand to a hundred thousand years.

 

Due to how intermixed our species is, all minor mutations eventually now get shared, as its is very unlikely that our species will diverge in the future.

 

At this point in time, genetic alterations are not possible, and they present considerable ethical issues. A person can be born with a minor mutation - such as above-average webbing between their digits, among other mutations, and these things are usually quickly changed by surgery to make said people exactly like everyone else.

 

But that doesn't change the genetic code. If said person with those mutations were to procreate - the mutations could get passed on, either dominantly or recessively.

 

A person could even have mutations of this sort hidden recessively in their DNA, dormant - the mutations never showing itself until a generation to several generations later. Or, the recessive gene carrying the mutation may disappear entirely over several generations. We can't be certain.

 

But this suggests an interesting topic to discuss.

 

Plainly, how do you think the human body may change in the far future, after enough generations of time?

 

I can think of several possibilities - some toes in the feet may become commonly seen as fused together, and having 5 separate toes may become rare eventually in our species.

 

Shoes could also have a slight effect how our feet evolve in the future - as shoes are not natural, and in fact, shoes teach you to walk improperly - which for most people is not harmful, though it is generally not a good thing that we've been doing to ourselves.

 

I found this link interesting on the matter of how shoes effect our feet in my research of the matter: http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/

 

Other things I could see happening in the future to our species are as follows:

 

-Eventual loss of the coccyx

-Possible changes to dental structure due to our dietary habits

-Changes in digestive systems: some loss of ability to process hard to break down foods

-Loss of vestigial organs due to deleterious mutations

-Generally tan skin color throughout our species becoming most common, as darkly pigmented skin is a dominant gene

-Further body hair loss

-Less average muscle mass

-Increase in average intelligence, better memory

-Some toes become commonly seen fused, fallen arches in feet become more common

-Muscles in hands typically have quicker reacting muscles, fingers may become longer

 

The thing with our species now is that those with unfavorable mutations don't die out like normal evolution would suggest. Both favorable and unfavorable mutations will likely be seen in our species in the far future - anything from better memory to weaker immune systems could occur.

 

What do you think of all of this? What hypotheses do you have about how our species may evolve in the far future?

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This suggests to me an interesting idea - what may our feet look like in the far future, after many more generations, assuming our species survives that long? A lot can happen in several thousand to a hundred thousand years.

You're assuming that there are significant advantages in the structure of the foot changing. In the developed world we've essentially removed environmental pressures, and without them, there's no way that 'the New Toe' can be selected for.

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You're assuming that there are significant advantages in the structure of the foot changing. In the developed world we've essentially removed environmental pressures, and without them, there's no way that 'the New Toe' can be selected for.

 

Exactly. Evolution tends to occur when a species is filling a new, or changed environmental niche. Now that we have a certain degree of control over our environment, we don't evolve to fit new environments, we change the environment to fit us, a process that takes much less time than generations of slow adaptation.

 

Breeding selection is largely a matter of personal taste, not necessity at this point, so any pull in one direction due to that alone would be unlikely.

 

The only way I could see the human race changing in one specific direction to any noticeable degree would be through either:

A. Widespread eugenics, in any of its many forms.

B. Technology. (i.e. sophisticated prosthetics, brain implants, and tons of stuff I can't even imagine)

or a combination of the two.

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You're assuming that there are significant advantages in the structure of the foot changing. In the developed world we've essentially removed environmental pressures, and without them, there's no way that 'the New Toe' can be selected for.

 

That makes a lot of sense, actually. There is no need to adapt if we can make our environment adapt to us. Since natural selection doesn't work out very well in human culture since our species is so mixed up everywhere, mutations don't work well.

 

Still, I would bet that we might see a slow/slightly increase in average intelligence/better memory over time, possibly. Also, we may see a loss in average muscle mass due to the lazy lifestyle modern society presents, as well as future society. Also, a tan skin color becoming the most common may happen in not too long of a time. But skin color changes won't a mutation, I suppose, rather just a mix of dominant and recessive genes controlling pigmentation. The other changes I thought of are less likely.

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You're assuming that there are significant advantages in the structure of the foot changing. In the developed world we've essentially removed environmental pressures, and without them, there's no way that 'the New Toe' can be selected for.
But our adaptation is far ahead of our bodies in some cases. For instance, we know cook meat in some many different ways and use techniques that make it so soft that our canine teeth are essentially losing their purpose. Evolutionists predict it'll soon (on an evolutionary time scale) become a rare feature. So you see, our adaptation of the environment can be an evolution motivator by itself.

 

Still, I would bet that we might see a slow/slightly increase in average intelligence/better memory over time, possibly.

I'm not so sure about memory. From what I've heard, easy and fast access to information are actually making our short-term memory deteriorate. If we become even more intelligent, then good for us but as I see it memory won't serve us better any time soon.

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Who needs short-term memory when eventually we'll all have computer hard-drives wired into our bodies? We'll probably end up able to create and provide for ourselves as much 'memory' as we could ever want.

 

Personally, I think the only significant evolutionary changes the human race might see would be related to the digestive system and those directly attached to it. Our diets are becoming progressively unhealthy; I see two potential results: either the average life expectancy steadily begins to dwindle and we die out, or our bodies will begin to adapt to our chosen diet. This is assuming, of course, that we don't invent some miracle drug that will make the healthy lifestyle obsolete... which is a sadly plausible eventuality, given our record.

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