Adventures in Human Evolution
Why did our earliest ancestors leave the trees and start to walk on two
legs? What were early people like? Did they have language?
A theory called the Sahara pump theory has been used to tell how different species of plants and animals moved from Africa to the Middle East, and then elsewhere. Early humans may have moved from Africa to other parts of the world in the same way.
The first truly modern humans seem to have appeared between 200,000 and 130,000 years ago. These early humans moved out from Africa and by 10 thousand years ago they lived in most parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and North America.
They replaced other groups of human like species that had migrated earlier. These were called Neanderthals or Homo erectus. They competed for resources with the modern human, but the modern human was more successful.
predators or prey?
Ape-man tells the remarkable epic of our
5-million-year journey from ape to man. This extraordinary story has
been pieced together from a host of fossil finds, prehistoric cave
paintings, discarded stone tools, and traces of ancient genetic
In this dramatic and highly readable account, Robin McKie,
Science editor of The Observer, unravels the saga of how these
discoveries have allowed us to build up a picture of our ancestors'
It is a gripping scientific detective story that reveals how our
world has come to be dominated by a single primate species: Homo
The clues to our past include astonishing human-like
footprints, preserved in volcanic ash sediments for over 3.5 million
years, made by creatures -- half-ape, half-man -- already walking on two
A startlingly well-preserved skeleton unearthed at Lake Turkana,
Kenya, revealing the grim life-and-death story of an 11-year-old boy who
lived on the African savannah 1.5 million years ago.
And minute DNA
samples which some scientists believe will help them trace back the
lineage of Homo sapiens to one African woman who lived 200,000 years
Illustrated with evocative recreations of early man and his
landscapes, photographs of the human fossils and the palaeontologists
who discovered them.
Maps of key fossil sites, this book –– which
accompanies the ground-breaking new BBC television series Ape-man ––
unravels the clues, the setbacks, the human dramas and the scientific
disputes to tell the astonishing story of our ancestry.
It was known for a long time – several centuries – that man and the apes were related. At heart, their anatomy is similar, despite many superficial differences. This was the reason why Buffon and Linnaeus, in the 18th century, put them together in one family.
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution says that such basic structural similarity comes from the common origin of the group. The apes and man are close relatives, and are primates: the order of mammals which includes monkeys, apes, lemurs and tarsiers.
The great apes live in tropical rainforests. It is thought that human evolution started when a group of apes began to live more in the savannah. Savannah is more open, with trees, shrubs and grass. This group, the australopithecines started walking on two legs. They began to use their hands to carry things.
Life in the open was quite different, and there was a big advantage in having better brains. Their brains grew to be much larger, and they began to make simple tools. All this began at least 5 million years ago. We have fossils of two or three different groups of walking apes, and one was the ancestor of humans.
Ape Genius - NOVA
A new generation of investigators is revealing the
secret mental lives of great apes that are turning out to be far smarter
than most experts ever imagined.
Scientists are at last zeroing in on
what separates us from our closest living relatives.
Today, all humans belong to one population of Homo sapiens sapiens, undivided by species barrier.
However, according to the "Out-of-Africa" model this is not the first species of hominids: the first species of genus Homo, Homo habilis, evolved in East Africa at least 2 Ma (millions of years ago), and members of this species populated different parts of Africa in a relatively short time.
Homo erectus evolved more than 1.8 Ma, and by 1.5 Ma had spread throughout the Old World.
Anthropologists have been divided as to whether current human population evolved only in East Africa, speciated, then migrated out of Africa and replaced human populations in Eurasia (called the "Out-of-Africa" Model or the "Complete-Replacement" Model) or evolved as one interconnected population (as postulated by the Multiregional Evolution hypothesis).
Natural selection occurs in modern human populations. For example, the population which is at risk of the severe debilitating disease kuru has significant over-representation of an immune variant of the prion protein gene G127V versus non-immune alleles.
The frequency of this genetic variant is due to the survival of immune persons.
Other reported evolutionary trends in other populations include a lengthening of the reproductive period, reduction in cholesterol levels, blood glucose and blood pressure.
It has been argued that human evolution has accelerated since, and as a result of, the development of agriculture and civilization some 10,000 years ago. It is claimed that this has resulted in substantial genetic differences between different current human populations.