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Understanding Climate's Influence on Human Evolution

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The hominin fossil record documents a history of critical evolutionary events that have ultimately shaped and defined what it means to be human, including the origins of bipedalism; the emergence of our genus Homo; the first use of stone tools; increases in brain size; and the emergence of Homo sapiens, tools, and culture. The Earth's geological record suggests that some evolutionary events were coincident with substantial changes in African and Eurasian climate, raising the possibility that critical junctures in human evolution and behavioral development may have been affected by the environmental characteristics of the areas where hominins evolved. Understanding Climate's Change on Human Evolution explores the opportunities of using scientific research to improve our understanding of how climate may have helped shape our species.

Improved climate records for specific regions will be required before it is possible to evaluate how critical resources for hominins, especially water and vegetation, would have been distributed on the landscape during key intervals of hominin history. Existing records contain substantial temporal gaps. The book's initiatives are presented in two major research themes: first, determining the impacts of climate change and climate variability on human evolution and dispersal; and second, integrating climate modeling, environmental records, and biotic responses.

Understanding Climate's Change on Human Evolution suggests a new scientific program for international climate and human evolution studies that involve an exploration initiative to locate new fossil sites and to broaden the geographic and temporal sampling of the fossil and archeological record; a comprehensive and integrative scientific drilling program in lakes, lake bed outcrops, and ocean basins surrounding the regions where hominins evolved and a major investment in climate modeling experiments for key time intervals and regions that are critical to understanding human evolution.

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Suggested Citation

National Research Council. 2010. Understanding Climate's Influence on Human Evolution. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/12825.

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Publication Info

128 pages | 6 x 9
ISBNs:
  • Paperback: 978-0-309-14838-2
  • Ebook: 978-0-309-15239-6
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17226/12825
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