Evolution of Human

Topics: Human, Human evolution, Hominidae Pages: 8 (3136 words) Published: July 24, 2005
Human evolution is the biological and cultural development of humans. A human is any member of the species Homo sapiens, meaning "wise man." Since at least the Upper Paleolithic era, some 40,000 years ago, every human society has devised a creation myth to explain how humans came to be. Creation myths are based on cultural beliefs that have been adopted as a legitimate explanation by a society as to where we came from. The science of paleoanthropology, which also tries to create a narrative about how humans came to be, is deeply technical. Paleoantropology is the science of the evolution of humans, and it is the base of all research in that field. Humans have undergone many different changes during the last hundred million years, and it is the paleoanthropologist's job to identify and explain these changes. In this research paper I will examine: human physical traits that define their species, human origins from pre-humans to modern humans, major discoveries and the history of human evolution, and what the future may hold as far as evolution for the human species. Homo sapiens are the only living representative of the family Hominidae. The Hominidae, or hominids are a group of upright walking primates with relatively large brains. So all humans are hominids, but not all hominids could be called human. Next all humans are primates. The mammalian order of primates include about 180 species of prosimians (lemur like animals), monkeys, apes, and ourselves. Primates are unusual mammals for they have evolved such distinctive traits as highly developed binocular vision, mobile fingers and toes with flat nails instead of claws, a shortened snout with a reduced sense of smell, and large brains relative to body size. If primates are unusual for mammals, humans are even more unusual for primates. We are essentially elaborated African apes. We share almost 99 percent of our genetic material with chimpanzees. Yet we have several traits that are very different. Two legged walking, or bipedalism seems to be one of the earliest of the major hominine characteristics to have evolved. To accommodate this strange position, we have developed a specialized pelvis, hip and leg muscles, and an S-shaped vertebral column. Because these changes can be documented in fossil bone, bipedalism is seen as the defining trait of the sub family Homininae. Much of the human ability to make and use tools and other objects stem from the large size and complexity of the human brain. Most modern humans have a braincase volume of between 79.3 and 91.5 cubic inches. In the course of human evolution the size of the brain has more than tripled. The increase in brain size may be related to changes in hominine behavior. Over time stone tools, and other artifacts became increasingly numerous and sophisticated. It is likely that the increase in human brain size took place as part of a complex interrelationship that included the elaboration of tool use and tool making, as well as other learned skills which permitted our ancestors to be increasingly able to live in a variety of environments. The earliest hominine fossils show evidence of marked differences in body size, which may reflect a pattern of the different sexes in our early ancestors. The bones suggest that females may have been 3 to 4 ft in height and about 60 to 70 lb. in weight, while males may have been somewhat more than about 5 ft tall, weighing about 150 lb. The reasons for this body size difference are disputed, but may be related to specialized patterns of behavior in early hominine social groups. This extreme difference between sexes appears to disappear gradually sometime after a million years ago. The third major trend in hominine development is the gradual decrease in the size of the face and teeth. All the great apes are equipped with large, tusklike canine teeth that project well beyond the level of the other teeth. The earliest hominine remains possess canines that project slightly, but those of all...

Bibliography: Edgar, Blake, and Johanson, Donald. From Lucy to Language. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Fagan, Brian. The Journey from Eden - The Peopling of Our World. London: Thames and Hudson, 1990. Gallagher, Richard B., Michael Murphy, and Luke O 'Neill. "What Are We? Where Did We Come From? Where Are We Going?" Science 14 Jan. 1994: 181-183 Gibbons, Ann, "When It Comes to Evolution, Humans Are in the Slow Class." Science 31 March. 1995: 1907-1908 "Human Evolution." Microsoft Encarta. 1996 ed. [CD-ROM] Leakey, Richard. The Origin of Humankind. New York: Basic Books, 1994. Lemonick, Michael "New Thinking on Human Evolution" Time 14 March 1994: 81-87
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