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A review and discussion of human evolution, including both biological, behavioural and cultural changes.

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  • January 2, 2013
  • 02:07 PM

Tree climbing and human evolution

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

The modern human foot and ankle has lost many ape-like traits in favour of an anatomy useful for walking bipedally. For example, the grasping toes of apes have become shorter rigid toes in humans that can propel us forwards as we walk. Many bones in the foot and ankle have become larger to better support … Continue reading »... Read more »

Venkataraman VV, Kraft TS, & Dominy NJ. (2012) Tree climbing and human evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23277565  

  • January 1, 2013
  • 03:48 PM

Who was the hobbits ancestor?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Homo floresiensis, also known as “the hobbit”, is probably the most famous hominin of the 21st century. Even my barber had heard of it. This popularity seems to stem from how strange the creature is, ensuring it is very popular with the media. Measuring in at just over a meter tall it’s the smallest member of … Continue reading »... Read more »

Argue D, Morwood MJ, Sutikna T, Jatmiko, & Saptomo EW. (2009) Homo floresiensis: a cladistic analysis. Journal of human evolution, 57(5), 623-39. PMID: 19628252  

  • December 6, 2012
  • 04:40 PM

Sexual selection in humans: Can you become more attractive by changing your voice?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

New research reveals that putting on an overly masculine or effeminate voice does not make you more attractive. A while ago I wrote a post about sexual selection in humans, detailing how chest hair and waist-to-hip ratio appear to offer no functional benefits to people aside from making them attractive to the opposite sex. Some … Continue reading »... Read more »

Fraccaro, P., O'Connor, J., Re, D., Jones, B., DeBruine, L., & Feinberg, D. (2012) Faking it: deliberately altered voice pitch and vocal attractiveness. Animal Behaviour. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.10.016  

  • December 4, 2012
  • 11:54 AM

Humans are still evolving: Women are getting shorter

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

New research into current human evolution has identified many attributes in Homo sapiens which are still evolving, including female height, undermining the idea that the advent of civilisation has stopped evolution in its track. This research – undertaken by an international team of scientists led by Dr Stearns of Yale – also provides yet more confirmation … Continue reading »... Read more »

Stearns SC, Govindaraju DR, Ewbank D, & Byars SG. (2012) Constraints on the coevolution of contemporary human males and females. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 279(1748), 4836-44. PMID: 23034705  

  • November 27, 2012
  • 03:05 PM

Caring Homo erectus

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Empathy is an important human emotion, forming the foundation of the social emotions which underpin our communities. Our desire to care for one another – often at great personal cost – has allowed us to develop the society we know today. The importance of empathy has not been missed by academics, who have for centuries … Continue reading »... Read more »

Lordkipanidze D, Vekua A, Ferring R, Rightmire GP, Agusti J, Kiladze G, Mouskhelishvili A, Nioradze M, Ponce de León MS, Tappen M.... (2005) Anthropology: the earliest toothless hominin skull. Nature, 434(7034), 717-8. PMID: 15815618  

  • November 15, 2012
  • 02:33 PM

Our sense of smell is “devolving”

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Humans have a really poor sense of smell, as anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock surely knows. It just takes a brief glance at the many animals we keep as pets to realise that our olfactory senses are pretty shabby. The police rely on sniffer dogs to identify illicit substances, not specially trained … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • November 13, 2012
  • 11:36 AM

What did neanderthals wear?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Neanderthals lived in Europe from ~400,000 years ago to ~28,000 years ago. During this time period the climate was difficult, with numerous ice ages and other dramatic climate shifts like Henrich events. Named after their discoverer, Hartmut Henrich, these are massive depositions of ice into the sea which can change direction of ocean currents. The … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • November 6, 2012
  • 06:31 PM

Australopithecus afarensis: tree climber

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Australopithecus afarensis is a bipedal human ancestor which lived in Africa from 3.9 – 2.9 million years ago. It’s particularly notable for being the first hominin to have a human-like foot, having replaced the chimp-like opposable toe of its ancestor Ardipithecus ramidus (who lived 4.4 million years ago) with a forward-facing human-esque toe. Although Ar. … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • October 10, 2012
  • 11:23 AM

When did our ancestors become dependent on meat?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

For around 30 million years the great apes have been living in the rainforest, during which time they have been adapting and evolving to that environment. However, ~14 – 10 million years ago the African environment began to change. It got drier, there was less rainfall and what rain did occur became more seasonal. All … Continue reading »... Read more »

Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, Travis Rayne Pickering, Fernando Diez-Martín, Audax Mabulla, Charles Musiba8, Gonzalo Trancho, Enrique Baquedano, Henry T. Bunn, Doris Barboni, Manuel Santonja, David Uribelarrea1, Gail M. Ashley, María del Sol Martínez-Ávil. (2012) Earliest Porotic Hyperostosis on a 1.5-Million-Year-Old Hominin, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. PLoS ONE, 7(10). DOI: 10.1371  

  • October 2, 2012
  • 12:14 PM

Humans and chimps diverged earlier than previously thought

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Our lineage’s fossil record is especially sparse between 4 – 8 million years ago. From that time period we have roughly 50 fragmented specimens making up only 6 or so individuals. It isn’t much to go on, which is particularly disappointing since genetic data indicates that humans and chimps diverged during this period. Indeed, with … Continue reading »... Read more »

Langergraber KE, Prüfer K, Rowney C, Boesch C, Crockford C, Fawcett K, Inoue E, Inoue-Muruyama M, Mitani JC, Muller MN.... (2012) Generation times in wild chimpanzees and gorillas suggest earlier divergence times in great ape and human evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(39), 15716-21. PMID: 22891323  

  • August 30, 2012
  • 03:36 PM

Earliest South Asian human discovered

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

The Out of Africa (OoA) hypothesis postulates that our species arose in Africa from earlier archaic forms from 400,000 – 195,000 years ago. Then, ~60,000 years ago, some of our ancestors migrated out of Africa and colonised the rest of the world, out-competing their hominin relatives who were already living in these other regions. However, … Continue reading »... Read more »

Demeter F, Shackelford LL, Bacon AM, Duringer P, Westaway K, Sayavongkhamdy T, Braga J, Sichanthongtip P, Khamdalavong P, Ponche JL.... (2012) Anatomically modern human in Southeast Asia (Laos) by 46 ka. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 22908291  

  • August 28, 2012
  • 02:53 PM

How “god” evolved #3: How does “god” promote co-operation?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

<- Part 2 came before Belief in a “high” god who created humanity and gave us a moral code to live by is very common in most Western societies. Indeed, for the past thousand years or so such “high” gods have been one of the defining traits of Western culture, driving architecture, art and music. … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 23, 2012
  • 05:32 PM

Risk taking in apes

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

A “farmer curve” is a graph which charts the chance of an event occurring against how bad that event will be, in effect calculating how risky a particular situation is. It’s a fairly handy tool that can help you work out whether should take the gamble and in an ideal world humans would use it … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 21, 2012
  • 12:48 PM

Was human technology superior to neanderthals’?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Why our neanderthal cousins died out is the source of intense debate in evolutionary anthropology, with a plethora of ideas being thrown back and forth between competing camps. Certainly I’ve written my fair share of posts on the subject. Sadly there is little definitive evidence for any of them and so no single proposal has … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 19, 2012
  • 01:43 PM

How “god” evolved #2: the religious revolution

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

<- Part one came before The Neolithic Revolution (and the few thousand years before/after it) was the most important period in the history of human civilisation. From ~9,000 – ~3,000 years ago our species invented writing, metalworking, cities, armies, farming, money and much more. In essence, the foundation of our modern culture was laid during … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 16, 2012
  • 05:28 PM

How “god” evolved

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Religious belief is very common in Homo sapiens, with almost all cultures having some kind of supernatural belief that is important to their sense of identity. However, here the similarities end for within the spectrum of human society is a similarly broad spectrum of religious beliefs. These range from the simple “animal spirits” who are … Continue reading »... Read more »

Peoples HC, & Marlowe FW. (2012) Subsistence and the Evolution of Religion. Human nature (Hawthorne, N.Y.). PMID: 22837060  

  • August 14, 2012
  • 11:36 AM

The Laeotli footprints – Australopithecine bipedality confirmed

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Once upon a time a volcano erupted, spewing ash into the air which fell onto the surrounding grassland. But amidst this grey and alien landscape a few pillars of green remained, clumps of forest whose leaves the ash simply fell off. Swinging through this forest was an ape, at first glance like any other. She … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 14, 2012
  • 11:36 AM

The Laeotli footprints and Australopithecine bipedality

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Once upon a time a volcano erupted, spewing ash into the air which fell onto the surrounding grassland. But amidst this grey and alien landscape a few pillars of green remained, clumps of forest whose leaves the ash simply fell off. Swinging through this forest was an ape, at first glance like any other. She … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 9, 2012
  • 02:02 PM

Homo rudolfensis: Finally shown to be a separate species?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

Homo habilis is the earliest member of our genus, living from 2.3-1.4 million years ago.  Not only was it the first species be “human” enough to be considered in our genus, it was also the first species to use stone tools and the first to really look more human than ape, with a face that … Continue reading »... Read more »

Meave G. Leakey,, Fred Spoor,, M. Christopher Dean,, Craig S. Feibel,, Susan C. Antón,, & Christopher Kiarie, Louise N. Leakey. (2012) New fossils from Koobi Fora in northern Kenya confirm taxonomic diversity in early Homo. Nature, 201-204. DOI: 10.1038/nature11322  

  • August 7, 2012
  • 11:22 AM

Did the Paranthropines evolve twice?

by sahelanthropus in EvoAnth

The human family tree is a very bushy one, with several offshoots developing and dying out over the course of our evolutionary history. Most people are familiar with many of these offshoots, such as neanderthals, the hobbit and recently the new Chinese hominin. Less are familiar with one of the earlier branches: the Paranthropines. The … Continue reading »... Read more »

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