Blog | Wednesday, February 25, 2009

'Cat-boy' and evolution in action


It's not the most credible source of medical news, but London's The Sun reported on a Chinese child with the ability to read in perfect darkness. The rest of the world has picked up on this report of a strange side effect of leukodermia (vitiligo), although The Sun put its typical spin on the story of "cat-boy."

Normally, you could wrap your fish-and-chips in The Sun and that's it, but this made me think of other, more credible reports of genetic mutations that offer evolutionary advantages in humans, specifically their eyesight. Millions of women may have the ability to see an extended range of color--for example, seeing ten colors in a rainbow instead of the seven the rest of us can see. Tetrachromacy, as it's called, is another example of evolution in action. It's been put forth over the years that seeing more colors helps species find riper foods or avoid poisonous ones.

We're in the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin publishing On the Origin of Species and we're still learning new elements of evolutionary theory and its potential impact on medicine.