Human evolution News

Claim: Human traits developed serially, not all at once

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From ScienceDaily:

Many traits unique to humans were long thought to have originated in the genus Homo between 2.4 and 1.8 million years ago in Africa. Although scientists have recognized these characteristics for decades, they are reconsidering the true evolutionary factors that drove them.

A large brain, long legs, the ability to craft tools and prolonged maturation periods were all thought to have evolved together at the start of the Homo lineage as African grasslands expanded and Earth’s climate became cooler and drier. However, new climate and fossil evidence analyzed by a team of researchers, including Smithsonian paleoanthropologist Richard Potts, Susan Antón, professor of anthropology at New York University, and Leslie Aiello, president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, suggests that these traits did not arise as a single package. Rather, several key ingredients once thought to define Homo evolved in earlier Australopithecus ancestors between 3 and 4 million years ago, while others emerged significantly later.

This seems to be an attempt to cope with the Dmanisi bombshell:

Analysis of the skull and other remains at Dmanisi suggests that scientists have been too ready to name separate species of human ancestors in Africa. Many of those species may now have to be wiped from the textbooks.

The problem is that the story then becomes unclear.

The ability to craft tools co-evolves with a large brain, for example, as with long maturation periods. If you don’t need to know much to survive, you don’t need to hang around your parents and other teachers very long. But if your survival depends in large part on the impartation of knowledge skills, a long maturation becomes a benefit. Even today, the more a society is knowledge-based, the longer the periods people are expected to spend in learning environments, even as adults.

It looks like Dmanisi is proving a wee bit difficult to explain credibly. As I said at the time, “In any event, this is better news for Fred Flintstone than for The Ascent of Man.”

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2 Replies to “Claim: Human traits developed serially, not all at once

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    Read Ann Gauger’s book. In the same way there are no half-bats or half-whales, there aren’t any half-humans. Humans simply appear 1 million years or so ago. You can’t get to homo sapiens (the only species that has ever existed) starting with gorillas or chimps, the same way you can’t get to whales starting with bears.

  2. 2
    JoeCoder says:

    I think you mean 1.8 to 2 million years ago?

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