In looking at the history of our species, up to the modern human, it is clear to see that evolution plays a large part in how humans look and function today. Before this class, I had some idea of how large of a role evolution played in how modern humans behave and why, but after taking this course I understand the process of evolution much better. Evolution has definitely lead to many changes in the human species over millions of years, so it only makes sense that evolution continues today. However, since evolution usually takes many years to occur, it can be hard to spot exact instances of evolution, but it is not impossible.
When looking for evolution in modern humans, it is important to look at specific instances of mutations. Just because there are mutations in one certain human does not mean that it will lead to evolution, but evolution can come about from large scale mutations in a group of humans, or one mutation that transfers through generations. One of the examples we learned of this was how one gene that was protection against cardiovascular disease could be traced to a mutation in one specific man living in Italy. Because of this one mutation, several of his ancestors carried this gene and, if they reproduce in the future, this could lead to some sort of evolutionary trait, where people would be less prone to cardiovascular disease.
One example of a biological trait that points to evolution that I think is sometimes forgotten about, is the existence of the human appendix. Previously, the appendix was used to break down cellulose in a very highly leafy diet when leaves were the main staple of eating. Today, however, the appendix is pretty useless. In fact, many people have them taken out because they are actually a detriment to our health. Another example of a biological trait that humans no longer have a need for is our tailbone, or the coccyx. It is basically what is left of a tail, when our ancestors had one. This is another example of evolution because a long time ago we needed this feature in our bodies, however today it does not really serve a function because our bodies and lives have changed.
I think the most helpful and maybe the most obvious trait that is evolving in humans is our resistance to disease. Previously, most death occurred because of disease and wounds that our ancestors did not know how to treat and heal. This meant that live spans were incredibly short, because people were mainly dying from disease. Today, however, not only do we have very advanced medicines to keep this from happening, but we also just have evolved to have stronger immune systems that keep us from dying from many diseases. For example, a couple hundred years ago, humans could die simply from catching the common cold. Today, though, this is relatively uncommon and even if one does not take medicine they are most likely to be fine if they just wait it out. This type of resistance to disease is a very common example of evolution and in the future we will definitely be able to see more of this.