Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climatic fluctuations drove key events in human evolution, researchers find

Date:
September 26, 2011
Source:
University of Liverpool
Summary:
Researchers have found that periods of rapid fluctuation in temperature coincided with the emergence of the first distant relatives of human beings and the appearance and spread of stone tools.

Arrowhead. Research at the University of Liverpool has found that periods of rapid fluctuation in temperature coincided with the emergence of the first distant relatives of human beings and the appearance and spread of stone tools.
Credit: chas53 / Fotolia

Research at the University of Liverpool has found that periods of rapid fluctuation in temperature coincided with the emergence of the first distant relatives of human beings and the appearance and spread of stone tools.

Dr Matt Grove from the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology reconstructed likely responses of human ancestors to the climate of the past five million years using genetic modelling techniques. When results were mapped against the timeline of human evolution, Dr Grove found that key events coincided with periods of high variability in recorded temperatures.

Dr Grove said: "The study confirmed that a major human adaptive radiation -- a pattern whereby the number of coexisting species increases rapidly before crashing again to near previous levels -- coincided with an extended period of climatic fluctuation. Following the onset of high climatic variability around 2.7 million years ago a number of new species appear in the fossil record, with most disappearing by 1.5 million years ago. The first stone tools appear at around 2.6 million years ago, and doubtless assisted some of these species in responding to the rapidly changing climatic conditions.

"By 1.5 million years ago we are left with a single human ancestor -- Homo erectus. The key to the survival of Homo erectus appears to be its behavioural flexibility -- it is the most geographically widespread species of the period, and endures for over one and a half million years. Whilst other species may have specialized in environments that subsequently disappeared -- causing their extinction -- Homo erectus appears to have been a generalist, able to deal with many climatic and environmental contingencies."

Dr Grove's research is the first to explicitly model 'Variability Selection', an evolutionary process proposed by Professor Rick Potts in the late 1990s, and supports the pervasive influence of this process during human evolution. Variability selection suggests that evolution, when faced with rapid climatic fluctuation, should respond to the range of habitats encountered rather than to each individual habitat in turn; the timeline of variability selection established by Dr Grove suggests that Homo erectus could be a product of exactly this process.

Linking climatic fluctuation to the evolutionary process has implications for the current global climate change debate. Dr Grove said: "Though often discussed under the banner term of 'global warming', what we see in many areas of the world today is in fact an increased annual range of temperatures and conditions; this means in particular that third world human populations, many living in what are already marginal environments, will face ever more difficult situations. The current pattern of human-induced climate change is unlike anything we have seen before, and is disproportionately affecting areas whose inhabitants do not have the technology required to deal with it."

The research is published in The Journal of Human Evolution and The Journal of Archaeological Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Matt Grove. Change and variability in Plio-Pleistocene climates: modelling the hominin response. Journal of Archaeological Science, 2011; 38 (11): 3038 DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2011.07.002
  2. Matt Grove. Speciation, diversity, and Mode 1 technologies: The impact of variability selection. Journal of Human Evolution, 2011; 61 (3): 306 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.04.005

Cite This Page:

University of Liverpool. "Climatic fluctuations drove key events in human evolution, researchers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921115910.htm>.
University of Liverpool. (2011, September 26). Climatic fluctuations drove key events in human evolution, researchers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921115910.htm
University of Liverpool. "Climatic fluctuations drove key events in human evolution, researchers find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921115910.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins