John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin, claims human evolution has been rapidly accelerating in the past several thousand years. Researchers claim the genetic changes have appeared at a rate roughly 100 times higher in the past 5000 years than at any previous point in human evolution.
In fact, people today are genetically more different from people living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals who vanished 30,000 years ago, according to anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin.
The genetic changes have related to numerous different human characteristics, the researchers said.
Many of the recent genetic changes reflect differences in the human diet brought on by agriculture, as well as resistance to epidemic diseases that became mass killers following the growth of human civilizations, the researchers said.
For example, Africans have new genes providing resistance to malaria. In Europeans, there is a gene that makes them better able to digest milk as adults. In Asians, there is a gene that makes ear wax more dry.
The changes have been driven by the colossal growth in the human population -- from a few million to 6.5 billion in the past 10,000 years -- with people moving into new environments to which they needed to adapt, added Henry Harpending, a University of Utah anthropologist.
"The central finding is that human evolution is happening very fast -- faster than any of us thought," Harpending said in a telephone interview.