Monday, January 30, 2006

Usefulness Factor 0

Interest Factor 1.
Scientists Find Gene That Controls Type of Earwax in People - New York Times: "The dry form, the researchers say, presumably arose later in northern Asia, because they detected it almost universally in their tests of northern Han Chinese and Koreans. The dry form becomes less common in southern Asia, probably because the northerners with the dry earwax gene intermarried with southern Asians carrying the default wet earwax gene. The dry form is quite common in Native Americans, confirming other genetic evidence that their ancestors migrated across the Bering Strait from Siberia 15,000 years ago."
And then it gets interesting.
"But earwax seems to have the very humble role of being no more than biological flypaper, preventing dust and insects from entering the ear. Since it seems unlikely that having wet or dry earwax could have made much difference to an individual's fitness, the earwax gene may have some other, more important function. Dr. Yoshiura and his colleagues suggest that the gene would have been favored because of its role in sweating.

They write that earwax type and armpit odor are correlated, since populations with dry earwax, such as those of East Asia, tend to sweat less and have little or no body odor, while the wet earwax populations of Africa and Europe sweat more and so may have more body odor. Several Asian features, like small nostrils, are conjectured to be adaptations to the cold. Less sweating, the Japanese authors suggest, may be another adaptation to the cold in which the ancestors of East Asian peoples are thought to have lived."
Wow. As fascinating as that was, scientists are just as weird as nonscientists.

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