Surpassing our evolutionary scars

1 minute read

Ann Gibbons covers a session at the meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, titled, “The Scars of Human Evolution” (“Human Evolution: Gain Came With Pain”). The session was organized by Rachel Caspari and Karen Rosenberg, and included some great talks. For example, Bruce Latimer, who is always excellent in describing the trade-offs of bipedalism for long-term skeletal health:

Turning up the pain threshold a notch, anatomist and paleoanthropologist Bruce Latimer of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland limped to the podium, dangling a twisted human backbone as evidence of real pain. If you want one place cobbled together with duct tape and paper clips its the back, said Latimer, a survivor of back surgery.
In the United States alone, 700,000 people suffer vertebral fractures per year and back problems are the sixth leading human malady in the world. If you take care of it, your spine will get you through to about 40 or 50, says Latimer. After that, youre on your own.

The session was based on the 1951 article by Wilton Krogman, likewise titled, “The Scars of Human Evolution”. In honor of the session, Scientific American has made the article available for download for a short time. In some ways, this article was the impetus for what we now call “evolutionary medicine”.