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Human Evolution And Climate Change Broad Topic: Climate Change And Evolution

3397 words - 14 pages

Human Evolution and Climate ChangeBroad Topic: Climate Change and EvolutionEcological Change:BackgroundEarth's climatic history during the period of evolution of ancient species leading up to the present day human include fluctuations in cooling, drying, and wider climate changes. This research assesses how the changing environment affects the evolution of early hominin species leading to our own species in terms of biology and evolution (Climate Effects on Human Evolution).How do we determine the environmental fluctuations in temperature?Deep sea cores can be analyzed for the ratio of two oxygen isotopes which then indicates changing temperature or glacial ice over time. The two trends ...view middle of the document...

D. Hypotheses of evolutionHabitat-Specific Hypothesis: certain adaptations are associated with specific habitats (Climate Effects on Human Evolution).The expanding dry African Savannah may have caused upright walking to be a more beneficial way to move across the open landscape (Climate Effects on Human Evolution).Dr. Rick Potts of the Human Origins Program developed the Variability Selection Hypothesis. This hypothesis states that environmental instability, rather than a single habitat type, is what shapes the evolution of certain human adaptations. Over time, hominins have increased their abilities to cope with a number of different environments, rather than specializing on a single environment (Climate Effects on Human Evolution).Natural selection has resulted in physiological differences such as peripheral vasoconstriction and efficient oxygen extraction that allows the human species to adapt to a great variety of physical environments (Jones 51).Another way organisms can cope with environmental fluctuations is through genetic adaptations, such as a polymorphism. Different versions of genes (alleles) are present in the population, and natural selection favors one allele over another (Climate Effects on Human Evolution).Population Dynamics:Australopithecus afarensis (about 4.0 mya to 2.9 mya ago) (McKee 197)The males had an average height of 4'11" and weighed merely 92 pounds, while females averaged 3'5" and 64 pounds ("What Does It Mean to Be Human?")."Lucy" - The remains of a female ancestor were discovered by Donald Johanson and his colleagues in Ethiopia. The skeleton is from about 3.3 mya, and is about 40% complete (Gribben).A. afarensis DietPaleanthropologists can tell what A. afarensis ate by looking at the remains of their teeth. Dental microwear studies indicate they ate soft, sugar-rich fruits, but their tooth size and shape also indicate that they also ate brittle foods, probably when fruit was not available ("What Does It Mean to Be Human?").A. afarensis mainly had plant based diet, including leaves, fruit, seeds, roots, nuts, insects, and probably the occasional small vertebrates. ("What Does It Mean to Be Human?").The evolved skeletal form allowed afarensis to adapt to the changes in moisture and vegetation (Climate Effects on Human Evolution).The combination of the following features allows A. afarensis to move around in diverse habitats:Her short, broad pelvis held her body upright, while angled-in thigh bones kept her body weight directly over her knees while walking; both of these features are required in order to walk on two legs ("What Does It Mean to Be Human?").Long arms, and the crest created by muscles that attach to her humerus are evidence of a powerful chest and strong upper arm muscles necessary for tree climbing ("What Does It Mean to Be Human?").Longer grasping fingers than present in humans (Climate Effects on Human Evolution).Her feet were compact and able to support her body weight while walking, but her long,...

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