Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Time Line of Hominin Evolution

Image result for neanderthalEnvironmental & Science Education
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

Hominins are the group that includes modern and ancient humans and all of the other extinct relatives. Today, our closest living relatives are chimpanzees, but as the American Museum of Natural History notes, "extinct hominins are even closer. Where and when did they live? What can we learn about their lives? Why did they go extinct?"

The fossil information scientists have collected and analyzed is the subject of a ~ 6 minute film, a time-line of 7 million years of hominin evolution. Our family tree is as fragmented as you might expect but an evidence-based picture has emerged and continues to grow as new fossils are found.

Did you ever think that we are the last hominin, the last of relatively young line?

Ellas Beaudin and Briana Pobiner of the Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History have summarized the top 6 human evolution discoveries of 2018.  Here they are in headline form. For what these discoveries mean, Beaudin and Pobiner discuss each of them.

--What does it mean to be human?
-- Migrating modern humans: the oldest modern human fossil found outside of Africa.
-- Innovating modern humans: long-distance trade, the use of color, and the oldest Middle Stone Age tools in Africa.
--Art-making Neanderthals: our close evolutionary cousins actually created the oldest known cave paintings.
--Trekking modern humans: the oldest modern human footprints in North America.
--Winter-stressed, nursing Neanderthals: Neanderthal children’s teeth reveal intimate details of their daily lives.
--Hybridizing hominins: the first discovery of an ancient human hybrid. Beaudoin and Pobiner admit to some hype here. The original authors refused to go this far referring to this ancient human known as Denny was a “first generation person of mixed ancestry.” 

Jason Organ who blogs for the on-line journal PLOS just published Beaudin's and Pobiner's story.

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