Posted: Jul 02, 2010 3:54 pm
by hotshoe
CharlieM wrote:Has anyone observed a biological system becoming more efficient over time as natural selection working on changes makes the necessary tweeks.

Yes, of course we have.

Breaking news today, Genetic Evidence for High-Altitude Adaptation in Tibet

Tatum S. Simonson, Yingzhong Yang, Chad D. Huff, Haixia Yun, Ga Qin, David J. Witherspoon, Zhenzhong Bai, Felipe R. Lorenzo, Jinchuan Xing, Lynn B. Jorde, Josef T. Prchal, RiLi G wrote:... Positively selected haplotypes of EGLN1 and PPARA were significantly associated with the decreased hemoglobin phenotype that is unique to this highland population. Identification of these genes provides support for previously hypothesized mechanisms of high-altitude adaptation and illuminates the complexity of hypoxia-response pathways in humans.

Here's a good summary in the popular press:
Cian O'Luanaigh, The Guardian wrote:An international team of researchers compared the DNA of 50 Tibetans with that of 40 Han Chinese and found 34 mutations that have become more common in Tibetans in the 2,750 years since the populations split. More than half of these changes are related to oxygen metabolism.

The gene [EPAS1], which codes for a protein involved in responding to falling oxygen levels and is associated with improved athletic performance in endurance athletes, seems to be the key to Tibetan adaptation to life at high altitude. A mutation in the gene that is thought to affect red blood cell production was present in only 9% of the Han population, but was found in 87% of the Tibetan population.