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Come sit near the fire

August 11, 2016

The genetic comparison between ourselves and other hominen species continues to provide fascinating insights into our history. Homo sapiens, but not Neanderthals or Denisovans, carry a genetic adaptation that slows the metabolism of smoke toxins, making it easier for us to work and live in smoky environments. Such as a tee-pee with a central fire. Gary Perdew, one of the Penn State researchers who found this, explains:

The evolutionary hypothesis is, if Neanderthals were exposed to large amounts of these smoke-derived toxins, it could lead to respiratory problems, decreased reproductive capacity for women and increased susceptibility to respiratory viruses among preadolescents, while humans would exhibit decreased toxicity because they are more slowly metabolizing these compounds.

The obvious speculation is that it also makes it easier for us to smoke for pleasure. (Cite.)

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