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Lactose tolerance a key to evolution?

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beLIEf
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« on: May 25, 2011, 10:32:08 AM »

Evidence that we are still evolving, more fuel for the fire...

7http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12535647
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cyghost
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2011, 10:40:09 AM »

At this point in time no more fuel is needed really.

Anyone who denies evolution is denying observable reality and is delusional. More fuel is highly unlikely to change a delusional mind.

But cool link nonetheless  Cheesy
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« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2011, 11:02:42 AM »

Very true, such is the nature of faith. But at least it's something tangible they could marginally relate to that doesn't involve God burying dinosuars or them thinking we used to be monkeys  Grin
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« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2011, 13:20:15 PM »

i wonder towards what we are evolving.
since we do less work, our limbs with atrophy, fingers might become longer.  even more hairless.  or, evolution might be negated completely by us going nano or having bodies cloned and our 'consciousness' uploaded to the new brain.
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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2011, 15:14:23 PM »

i wonder towards what we are evolving.
Well, we're buggering up the ozone layer and putting a lot of dust into the atmosphere, so we'll need bigger and darker eyes.  We aren't doing as much physical labour, so we'll get skinnier and nerdier.  Most of our communication will be done via touch screens and the like, so our fingers will get longer and fewer.  After a while we'll end up looking like this:
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2011, 15:38:38 PM »

Well, we're buggering up the ozone layer


Not anymore.
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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2011, 16:42:56 PM »

Lactose tolerance playing a part in human evolution over the last 10 000 years makes a lot of sense.  Milk is very nutritious and the role it can play in natural selection is clear.  I am less convinced by the story of shorter, fatter people opting to have more children.  Have humans not been getting taller?  The theory is based on a rather small sample of humanity and also seems to be limited to female parents only.
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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2011, 17:26:55 PM »

Have humans not been getting taller?
That is much more the result of improved nutrition than of evolution.  Increased height doesn’t confer anywhere near the immediate survival advantage that an ability to metabolise lactose does in an agricultural setting.  Also, lactose tolerance is binary (either you can digest it or you can’t), whereas increased average height would be the cumulative effect over successive generations of slight advantages.

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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2011, 20:17:09 PM »

i wonder towards what we are evolving.

We aren't doing as much physical labour, so we'll get skinnier and nerdier.  Most of our communication will be done via touch screens and the like, so our fingers will get longer and fewer.  After a while we'll end up looking like this:


But apparantly kid's thumbs are getting bigger.....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/sci_tech/newsid_1892000/1892881.stm

Also I think the lack of physical labour is making us fatter and maybe the machines rather make us less intelligent rather than nerdier, so maybe a slightly dumber, fatter alien phenotype.
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2011, 21:32:45 PM »

Hey, remember this song?
PUSA- Man (Opposable Thumb) Cover
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2011, 22:06:59 PM »

Have humans not been getting taller?
That is much more the result of improved nutrition than of evolution.
Perhaps I misunderstand you, but you appear to juxtapose improved nutrition and evolution as two independent causes.  If improved nutrition had no selective effect, it would only impact on the incumbent generation and not have any heritable permanency.  There is a cumulative aspect to humans getting taller.  Perhaps one should interpret it as indicative of improved nutrition causing both contemporary increased tallness as well as selective advantage.  Is that what you intended to convey, but that the former is predominant?
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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2011, 22:42:33 PM »

No.  Tallness is not genetically fixed in the same way that lactose tolerance is.  In any generation, a biological individual may have a genetic predisposition to be taller than its siblings which may endow it with some or other survival (or reproductive) advantage, but that doesn’t mean that the individual will actually attain the potential tallness if the environment isn’t right.  The case of the Japanese (and now the Chinese, too) illustrates the point: current generations are taller than their progenitors because their nutritional standards are much improved, not because there’s been a spurt of tallness mutations.  That’s the point.

You could of course argue — and correctly so — that the ability to make provision for a healthier diet is itself a product of evolution, and, yes, this ability does indeed provide a selective advantage.  Tallness itself is merely a byproduct of that advantage, not the driving trait.

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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2011, 23:39:13 PM »

Tallness is not genetically fixed in the same way that lactose tolerance is.
The exact tallness an individual attains is of course the product of both genetics and nutrition, but I am of the opinion that an evolutionary trend towards increased tallness can be discerned, if not in exactly the same way as the trend towards lactose tolerance, at least in a very similar way.  Your modern European is substantially taller than what (say) your Roman soldier used to be two millennia ago.  Reverting to the diet of that era would not result in Europeans, within one or a few generations, "shrinking" to that size again.  The selection driver is more obvious in the case of lactose tolerance, but tallness has genetically evolved and appears to continue doing so.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 03:56:34 AM by Hermes » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2011, 09:34:08 AM »

when do i get to evolve boneclaws?
(does anybody know a place that deals with adamantium?)
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2011, 09:43:59 AM »

Reverting to the diet of that era would not result in Europeans, within one or a few generations, "shrinking" to that size again.  

Good point. I suspect the observed increase in (potential maximum) height is at least partly due to sexual selection.

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« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2011, 10:44:38 AM »

Reverting to the diet of that era would not result in Europeans, within one or a few generations, "shrinking" to that size again.
Yes, it would, and within a single generation, too, provided the diet (and lifestyle) reversion is complete and comprehensive in the society under scrutiny.  You don’t even need to go back to Roman times.  Just 500 years is enough to make the point.  As mentioned before, the reverse effect was strikingly illustrated by the Japanese in particular, pretty much over a single generation, where post-war Japanese grew much taller, having been raised during and after the reconstruction years when Japan moved from being an agrarian feudal society to a modern industrial giant.  Even today, primitive hunter-gatherer peoples tend to be appreciably shorter than modern societies.  For tallness to be a direct evolutionary effect (i.e. directly attributable to genes) there must be a selective advantage, survival and/or reproductive, to being tall that will push the population mean tallness to increasing values over successive generations.  While there may indeed be a lesser element of sexual selection to this in modern humans, it’s hardly obvious what that advantage might be, and a significant genetic shift in such a species trait over just a few tens of generations will only be achieved if there is also a commensurately severe selection pressure that drives it.  Tallness simply doesn’t fit that profile.

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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2011, 11:29:56 AM »

Each person must be born with the potentiality for both minimum and maximum height. He will reach the latter only under perfect dietary conditions, and the former only under dietary conditions that barely keep him alive.

Quote
Reverting to the diet of that era would not result in Europeans, within one or a few generations, "shrinking" to that size again.

Quote
Yes, it would,


So the claim is that the minimum potential height of humans remained constant in the last few thousand years, correct?

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« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2011, 12:32:11 PM »

So the claim is that the minimum potential height of humans remained constant in the last few thousand years, correct?
No, the claim is that the explanation for the observed increase in average human height is not primarily evolution.  As said, the combination of slight selective pressure together with the few tens of generations available for genetic fixing is not sufficient to explain adequately the observed increase.  It is much more plausibly explained by improvements in people’s living conditions.  Japan apart, in Europe, the last 150 years (about six generations) saw an average increase in people’s height of around 14 cm, or ±8%, which is a sizeable change.  Moreover, even in relatively homogeneous modern societies, tallness is correlated with socioeconomic status such that wealthier people also tend to be taller, and this difference was much more pronounced just a century ago.  That just ain’t evolution.  You can read more about the subject here and here.

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« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2011, 12:38:12 PM »

Reverting to the diet of that era would not result in Europeans, within one or a few generations, "shrinking" to that size again.  
Good point. I suspect the observed increase in (potential maximum) height is at least partly due to sexual selection.
Mintaka
Yes, the taller person may indeed be higher up in the pecking order.  This contradicts the Framingham study cited by beLIEf in the OP:
Quote
"What we have found with height and weight basically is that natural selection appears to be operating to reduce the height and to slightly increase their weight."
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« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2011, 13:16:00 PM »

Reverting to the diet of that era would not result in Europeans, within one or a few generations, "shrinking" to that size again.
Yes, it would, and within a single generation, too, provided the diet (and lifestyle) reversion is complete and comprehensive in the society under scrutiny.  You don’t even need to go back to Roman times.  Just 500 years is enough to make the point.  As mentioned before, the reverse effect was strikingly illustrated by the Japanese in particular, pretty much over a single generation, where post-war Japanese grew much taller, having been raised during and after the reconstruction years when Japan moved from being an agrarian feudal society to a modern industrial giant.  Even today, primitive hunter-gatherer peoples tend to be appreciably shorter than modern societies.  For tallness to be a direct evolutionary effect (i.e. directly attributable to genes) there must be a selective advantage, survival and/or reproductive, to being tall that will push the population mean tallness to increasing values over successive generations.  While there may indeed be a lesser element of sexual selection to this in modern humans, it’s hardly obvious what that advantage might be, and a significant genetic shift in such a species trait over just a few tens of generations will only be achieved if there is also a commensurately severe selection pressure that drives it.  Tallness simply doesn’t fit that profile.

'Luthon64
We are in agreement that the selection driver is more obvious in the case of lactose tolerance, but a sexual preference for taller people cannot be excluded as a possible influence.  The main point I originally made was that claims in the Farmingham study that shorter and fatter people have more children and that that is prove of evolution at work is rather suspect.  This would be even more so if evolution played no role in changing tallness. 
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« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2011, 14:05:18 PM »

… a sexual preference for taller people cannot be excluded as a possible influence.
Indeed, and such a mechanism was proposed as possibly ancillary, not ruled out.

The main point I originally made was that claims in the Farmingham study that shorter and fatter people have more children and that that is prove of evolution at work is rather suspect.
Okay, but I understood your question (“Have humans not been getting taller?”) to mean that you were suggesting the evolutionary trend was actually opposite to that reported in the Framingham study.  The linked-to article in the OP does indicate that the study was controlled for nutritional factors.  It may thus be that in reality tallness/slenderness is in modern times being genetically more fully expressed due to improved living conditions, but that is also being selected against, rather than shortness/plumpness being selected for.  The important question to ask is what factor(s) may be propelling the selection because the background genetic material was drawn from essentially the same population.  As such, the variations therein would be within statistical expectation.

This would be even more so if evolution played no role in changing tallness.
Sure, but it wasn’t asserted that evolution, or genetics for that matter, plays no role.

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« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2011, 15:14:55 PM »

It could be argued that fashion plays a role in the selection of a sex partner.  If tall, slim partners are in vogue, there would be social status associated with partnering with such a person.  Such social status might overrule more hereditary preferences in partner selection.  Considering that fashions change and can be quite whimsical, the distinction between natural and artificial selection becomes blurred in such a situation.
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« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2011, 15:37:26 PM »

The health of the parents and the food the parents consume, before and during the pregnancy determines how healthy you are later in life. Wouldn't the food they eat determine aswell how much weight you carry during your life time? If you were to imagine a mother not having enough food to eat, wouldn't the child be underdeveloped. And then also a child being born premature has a effect to.

So I think there is various factors that can determine this, both internal and external.
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« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2011, 16:27:17 PM »

Tallness is not genetically fixed in the same way that lactose tolerance is.

Maybe lactose tolerance and tallness are linked - it is very difficult to find dairy products being sold in countries such as China and Thailand and indigenous people of these countries are noticeably more vertically challenged.(Apart from Bao Xishun one of  the tallest men in the world) Of course many people now also include Western junk food in their diets, but on the whole it has been the same for generations. Short breeding short.
 Just an observation on my travels.
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« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2011, 19:31:56 PM »

Tallness is not genetically fixed in the same way that lactose tolerance is.
Maybe lactose tolerance and tallness are linked - it is very difficult to find dairy products being sold in countries such as China and Thailand and indigenous people of these countries are noticeably more vertically challenged.(Apart from Bao Xishun one of  the tallest men in the world) Of course many people now also include Western junk food in their diets, but on the whole it has been the same for generations. Short breeding short.
 Just an observation on my travels.
And what a challenging observation, beLIEf! (+1)
Now figure this out: If lactose tolerance is driven by natural selection and tallness is linked to lactose tolerance, would that (necessarily) imply that tallness is driven by natural selection?
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beLIEf
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« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2011, 20:10:40 PM »

In that case Hermes, then yes I believe it would. Perhaps a combination of natural selection and slight mutation since lactose intolerance still exists in individuals in otherwise lactose tolerant nations. I think people are significantly more likely to choose their partners based on their height rather than their love of dairy products - but then the tall ones might only be tall because of their ability to digest moo juice.... a conundrum indeed. Which came first tall people or dairy farming?  Huh?
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« Reply #26 on: May 27, 2011, 22:10:06 PM »

Maybe lactose tolerance and tallness are linked - it is very difficult to find dairy products being sold in countries such as China and Thailand and indigenous people of these countries are noticeably more vertically challenged.
Most southern African indigenous ethnic groups have been nomadic cattle herders for several centuries, living off dairy in addition to beef.  Their lactose tolerance is hardly in question.  Yet, they are on average short and slight peoples by European/US standards with the Kenyan/Tanzanian Maasai being one exception in the tallness department.  This seems to run counter to any simple link between lactose tolerance and tallness.



Short breeding short.
Of course there’s a strong genetic component in this.  It applies within ethnic groups as much as between them, but the question is how increasing tallness in recent human history is best explained: evolution or improved living standards?

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« Reply #27 on: May 28, 2011, 02:44:03 AM »

Oh come all ye newbies!
lurking in your hundreds,
come forth, freck apostrophobia
and say your say!

This is your forum as well!
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« Reply #28 on: May 28, 2011, 10:11:08 AM »

Oh come all ye newbies!
lurking in your hundreds,
come forth, freck apostrophobia
and say your say!

This is your forum as well!



Does that mean all you hero members have apostrophilia??

Maybe lactose tolerance and tallness are linked - it is very difficult to find dairy products being sold in countries such as China and Thailand and indigenous people of these countries are noticeably more vertically challenged.
Most southern African indigenous ethnic groups have been nomadic cattle herders for several centuries, living off dairy in addition to beef.  Their lactose tolerance is hardly in question.  Yet, they are on average short and slight peoples by European/US standards with the Kenyan/Tanzanian Maasai being one exception in the tallness department.  This seems to run counter to any simple link between lactose tolerance and tallness.

Short breeding short.
Of course there’s a strong genetic component in this.  It applies within ethnic groups as much as between them, but the question is how increasing tallness in recent human history is best explained: evolution or improved living standards?

'Luthon64

I wasn't implying the link was simple, just interestingly observable and of course nutritionally speaking would linked to a myriad of factors other than lactose. I think tallness is rather a result of both evolution and improved living standards, maybe the thing that needs clarification and is more difficult to determine is which factor has had the greatest influence.



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« Reply #29 on: May 28, 2011, 11:54:03 AM »

I wasn't implying the link was simple, just interestingly observable and of course nutritionally speaking would linked to a myriad of factors other than lactose. I think tallness is rather a result of both evolution and improved living standards, maybe the thing that needs clarification and is more difficult to determine is which factor has had the greatest influence.
One could also look at it from the opposite side and argue that in situations where food is scarce, such as among the hunter-gatherers, there is a competitive advantage to being small and able to survive on less food.
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« Reply #30 on: May 28, 2011, 12:15:53 PM »

Yes that would totally make sense as not only would people be smaller because of less food, but having a smaller body mass also requires less calories to sustain. Isn't nature clever?!  Smiley
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« Reply #31 on: May 29, 2011, 14:05:42 PM »

One could also look at it from the opposite side and argue that in situations where food is scarce, such as among the hunter-gatherers, there is a competitive advantage to being small and able to survive on less food.

The surviving on less food idea is an interesting one and opens up some other avenues of discussion. Lewis Wolpert discusses this briefly in his recent book "How we live and why we die". Simplistically, one might think that more food = better growth, healthier bodies, better reproductive ability, better survival, better propagation of genetic material. However, there is evidence from animal studies that eating less (a lot less!) can significantly extend the lifespans and reproductive age in a variety of animals.

In rats, the studies showed that a 50% reduction in food led to life spans that were 40% longer than the well fed rats. More relevant to this discussion is that the max reproductive age of female rats almost doubled. Sufficient vitamin and mineral intake was important but it didn't matter whether the calories came from fat, protein or carbs.

Alarmingly, if the restricted feeding regime was stopped, the aging process then actually seems to be accelerated.

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« Reply #32 on: May 29, 2011, 15:36:33 PM »

there is evidence from animal studies that eating less (a lot less!) can significantly extend the lifespans and reproductive age in a variety of animals

Eating too much can of course be unhealthy.
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« Reply #33 on: May 29, 2011, 16:00:28 PM »

Eating too little causes time to dilate - hence the apparent longevity. Life just seems longer because you're so darn hungry the whole time.  Wink
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« Reply #34 on: May 29, 2011, 16:05:19 PM »

there is evidence from animal studies that eating less (a lot less!) can significantly extend the lifespans and reproductive age in a variety of animals

Eating too much can of course be unhealthy.


Yes there are loads of articles about the benefits of having a lower calorific intake and obviously eating less of certain foods. Longevity being the most widely claimed benefit. Even if the reduction is for a limited period of time.

So could it be that religions - most of which have periods of fasting or abstinence from certain foods have also contributed to people in certain nations living longer and healthier lives? (or at least offset some of the lives lost in holy war or the counter- health benefits of being wracked with guilt
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« Reply #35 on: May 29, 2011, 16:13:45 PM »


So could it be that religions - most of which have periods of fasting or abstinence from certain foods have also contributed to people in certain nations living longer and healthier lives? (or at least offset some of the lives lost in holy war or the counter- health benefits of being wracked with guilt

I wonder. Is religion equivalent to fad diets? For example, the sort where you only eat cabbage and lemons for a month and hope to morph into Kate Moss.
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« Reply #36 on: May 29, 2011, 16:19:18 PM »

I wonder. Is religion equivalent to fad diets? For example, the sort where you only eat cabbage and lemons for a month and hope to morph into Kate Moss.


LOL, good one. Not with Pikkiwoki though - pork & coconuts prepare you for sumo.
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« Reply #37 on: May 29, 2011, 16:37:47 PM »


LOL, good one. Not with Pikkiwoki though - pork & coconuts prepare you for sumo.

Pikkiwoki says eat your brocci
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« Reply #38 on: May 29, 2011, 17:11:44 PM »

Pikkiwoki says eat your brocci
Cheesy
Are you aware of instances where populations have gone into natural decline because of an abundance of food?  I don't mean soil that is too rich for certain plants.
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« Reply #39 on: May 29, 2011, 17:20:40 PM »

Pikkiwoki says eat your brocci

LOL! If Pikkiwoki keeps on making unreasonable demands, he's destined for the great divine scrap-heap, along with Yahweh, Ra, Thor and countless others. These gods need to keep in touch with their markets.

Anyway, sorry for the derailment - temporary I hope.
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« Reply #40 on: May 29, 2011, 17:38:25 PM »

Are you aware of instances where populations have gone into natural decline because of an abundance of food?  I don't mean soil that is too rich for certain plants.

No, I've never seen any references to this. I could flippantly suggest that the US, UK and many other developed countries, which are in the grip of an obesity epidemic, are examples.

There are well documented examples of the opposite effect though. There's an area in Japan where the population consumes less (about 20% less) food than the Japanese average because of cultural reasons. This group has a higher than normal population of oldies reaching the 100 year mark.
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