As the use of and advances in both nanotechnology and genetic engineering increase, our species will more and more be able to guide the once-random process of organic evolution, including directing human evolution for chosen goals on planet earth and elsewhere. If the human gene pool departs significantly from its present makeup, then one may anticipate in the remote future the emergence of a new species, Homo futurensis. Dental features, as well as the cranium and innominate bone, greatly help to determine how close an apelike specimen is to the emergence of our own species.
Modern computers and improved dating techniques significantly aid paleoanthropologists in constructing viable models depicting human evolution in light of the growing fossil record, as well as genetic research information when it is available. Furthermore, fossil and genetic evidence sets limits to probable models for human evolution in particular, and primate evolution in general.
For early biological anthropologists, the theory of evolution implied that our own species has an evolutionary past that links it to the fossil apes of about 7 to 5 million years ago. However, a debate emerged as to whether this evolutionary link would be found in Africa or in Asia. Inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin in England and Ernst Haeckel in Germany, the Dutch naturalist Eugene Dubois decided to leave Europe for Indonesia, where he was convinced that his research would unearth a fossil form midway between apes and humans.
In the early s, with incredible luck, Dubois actually did find a hominid specimen that he classified as Pithecanthropus erectus or erect ape-man now relegated to the long Homo erectus stage of hominid evolution ; it was found at the Trinil site on the island of Java. Skeletal features revealed that this fossil specimen was an early hominid dated from at least , years ago.
Darwin would have been delighted with this discovery, but he himself had favored Africa as the cradle of human evolution, since the gorillas and chimpanzees two of our closest evolutionary cousins still inhabit this continent. Subsequently, several decades later, G. In , anatomist Raymond A. Dart analyzed a fossil skull that had been fortuitously found at the Taung site in the Transvaal area of South Africa.
He correctly determined that it was a hominid child over 1 million years old. It represented the australopithecine group of fossil hominids that existed for several million years. This discovery of Australopithecus africanus from Taung suggested that Darwin had been correct in maintaining that fossil apelike forms in Africa not in Asia had given rise to those hominids that are ancestral to our species.
This incredible discovery inspired other naturalists to continue the search for fossil apes and fossil hominids in Africa. Even so, more evidence for human evolution was next found at the Zhoukoudian site near Beijing, China, due to the ongoing research of Davidson Black and Franz Weidenrich including Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, among others.
The specimens represented Sinanthropus pekinensis, a form of Homo erectus that lived about , years ago. Later, with steadfast determination, the anthropologist Louis S. Leakey was convinced that the earliest fossil hominids would, in fact, be found in central East Africa. In , after searching for 30 years, his second wife Mary found the cranium of Zinjanthropus boisei at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania—a 1.
Although the cranium was that of the first fossil hominid ever found in central East Africa, it nevertheless represents a side branch that became extinct as several other forms did during the early evolution of hominid species. In , Louis S. Leakey himself found the skull of Homo habilis at Olduvai Gorge. This specimen was 1. Homo habilis not only stood erect and walked upright with a bipedal gait, but also made simple stone implements. Unlike other hominid forms that became extinct, this bigger-brained and culture-making species gave rise to Homo erectus, the next phase of hominization.
The astonishing success of the Leakey family, including both Richard E. Leakey who also found a Homo habilis skull, but at Koobi Fora and later Meave Leakey in Kenya, encouraged other biological anthropologists to search for hominid fossil specimens elsewhere in central East Africa Morell, During the s and s, three other major discoveries were made: the Lucy skeleton found by Donald C.
More recent fossil specimens make it clear that many different hominid forms once occupied Africa during the past 4. To date, the fossil australopithecine complex is represented by at least eight hominid species: aethiopicus, afarensis, africanus, anamensis, boisei, garhi, robustus, and sediba.
No doubt, in the coming years, more incredible fossil hominid specimens will be discovered in both Africa and Asia. A probable explanation for the Neanderthal extinction is that they could not compete with the far more intelligent Cro-Magnon people, who most likely had a more complex language and certainly an advanced material culture including stone and bone carvings, as well as exquisite cave murals.
New findings and ongoing research may answer questions concerning the biosocial relationship between these two groups of early Homo sapiens. For now, one fact is certain: The Cro-Magnon people gave rise to the modern human being as Homo sapiens sapiens. Actually, there is no common consensus among paleoanthropologists concerning the classification of fossil hominid specimens.
Some paleoanthropologists argue that skeletal differences represent numerous species, and perhaps even distinct genera. Other paleoanthropologists place different skeletons into the same species, or maintain that they merely represent sexual dimorphism. Nevertheless, three generalizations seem true: 1 Hominid evolution has taken place over 4 million years; 2 fossil hominid specimens represent many species that became extinct; and 3 evidence shows that sustained bipedality preceded Paleolithic culture, which preceded the modern cranial capacity.
No doubt, present models for and interpretations of hominid evolution will be modified in light of future discoveries. In the footsteps of Aristotle and Linnaeus, modern taxonomists are interested in classifying living primates into groups that reflect both their similarities and evolutionary relationships. However, besides relying upon comparative studies in embryology and morphology, modern taxonomists also use computer technology and research information from comparative genetics.
In general, primates are characterized by a large brain, great intelligence and memory, an emphasis on vision rather than smell , grasping hands and remarkable motor-sensory coordination, and complex psychosocial behavior. These special features were slowly acquired over millions of years as adaptive characteristics to enhance survival—and therefore reproduction— in the trees.
Only the human species spends its entire lifetime on the ground. There is no common consensus among modern taxonomists concerning the classification of the primates. The earliest group of primates to emerge was the diversified, arboreal prosimians. Living representatives include the tree shrews, lorises, tarsiers, and lemurs.
Although they once inhabited the trees in both hemispheres, all prosimians are now found only in Africa and Asia. The classification of tree shrews as primates is debatable, but this is to be expected since they represent an evolutionary link between the earlier ground-dwelling insectivores and the later tree-dwelling prosimians.
Nevertheless, the tree shrews show an emphasis on vision and motor-sensory coordination, as well as grasping digits and a comparatively large brain. Monkeys evolved out of the prosimians in both hemispheres. New World monkeys are arboreal and divided into two groups: one group consists of the small marmosets and tamarins, while the other group includes the larger monkeys, such as the spider monkey and the howler monkey.
Old World monkeys are very diversified, with some representatives spending considerable time on the ground, such as the baboons. Biological anthropologists are particularly interested in studying the behavior patterns of the terrestrial baboons, since these largest of the monkeys inhabit open woodlands and grassy savannahs when on the ground.
Consequently, baboon behavior may shed light on the social behavior of our earliest ancestors, the protohominids, who became successful in adapting to life on the ground in terms of biological characteristics and behavior patterns. Other Old World monkeys include the mandrill, drill, gelada, colobus, and vervet of Africa; the langurs of India; and the macaques of Asia e. Larger, more intelligent, and far better adapted to arboreal habitats, the monkeys dominated the trees in both hemispheres and nearly brought the prosimians to extinction.
The apes are placed into two groups: the lesser apes or hylobates, and the great apes or pongids. They are larger and more intelligent than the monkeys. The hylobates include the gibbon and siamang. The pongids include the orangutan, gorilla, chimpanzee, and bonobo. Fossil and living apes are found only in the Eastern Hemisphere, where they evolved from some earlier Old World monkeys. Evolutionary relationships among the fossil and living primates are determined by genotypic and phenotypic similarities.
However, interpretations of the evidence vary among paleoanthropologists and primatologists. One intriguing question remains: Which of the four pongids is closest to our own species? Many biological anthropologists maintain that the human animal is closest to the chimpanzee Diamond, and bonobo. Yet, there are a few naturalists who argue that Homo sapiens is actually closest to the orangutan Schwartz, Although fossil ape specimens are rare, future discoveries may shed more light on the evolution of early hominids from even earlier fossil pongids.
Since the writings of Huxley, Haeckel, and Darwin himself, evolutionary naturalists recognize the biological similarities among the primates: They all have large eyes, flexible digits, a complex brain, and great motor-sensory coordination.
Over millions of years, primates adapted successfully to life in the trees. They not only adapted to their arboreal habitats in terms of physical characteristics, but also in terms of social behaviors Fleagle, ; Jolly, ; Strier, With the acceptance of evolution, it is not surprising that in the middle of the 20th century, some biological anthropologists began to study wild primates in their natural habitats. In general, the more complex the physical features of a primate species, the more complex is its behavior patterns.
The prosimians exhibit simpler social structures than the monkeys, while the six apes especially the four pongids manifest the most complex behavior patterns outside our own species. In the Eastern Hemisphere, prosimian behavior is reflected in the solitary tree shrews, pair-bonded adult lorises and tarsiers, and the lemurs of Madagascar that are monogamous or live in small social groups with female dominance.
The ring-tailed lemurs Lemur catta communicate through sounds, smells, and body movements e. Their behavior patterns are social adaptations to life on the ground, enhancing survival and therefore reproduction. New World monkeys are arboreal and live in small social groups. The red howler monkey Alouatta seniculus eats fruits and leaves, defends a home range, and communicates through loud howls. Also important is cebid behavior research on the spider monkey and woolly monkey of South America.
Among the Old World monkeys, of particular importance is the common baboon Papio anubis in Africa Smuts, ; Strum, On the ground, a baboon troupe is headed by the dominant adult alpha male. Since these baboons are often terrestrial during the day, in the open woodlands and on the grassy savannahs, their social behavior may give biological anthropologists a glimpse into the group behavior of the early hominids, who adapted to and evolved in similar environments.
However, there are some primatologists who speculate that early hominid behavior may have been closer to the social behavior of living chimpanzees and bonobos. Significant behavior research continues on the terrestrial langurs and macaques of Asia. The two lesser apes, or hylobates, are the gibbon e. They are found only in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, where they have adapted very successfully to life in the trees.
Gibbons actively defend a territory through loud sounds and aggressive displays, which warn off intruding groups. It was to be expected that some primatologists would focus their research on studying the behavior of the great apes. Most important are past and ongoing close-range, long-term observations of the pongids in their natural environments. Inspired by paleoanthropologist Louis S. Their steadfast and pioneering observations resulted in remarkable discoveries concerning the behavior patterns of the three pongids.
These social findings supplemented the biological evidence that already supported the close evolutionary link between the great apes and our species. In their natural habitats, wild orangutans Pongo pygmaeus live only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. Galdikas devoted her research to observing the orangutans on the island of Borneo Galdikas, , Her close-range, long-term observations of this pongid have added greatly to understanding and appreciating this great ape of Asia.
She not only focused on their behavior patterns, but also prepared orphaned infants for their return to the tropical rainforests. In doing so, her devotion to studying and caring for orangutans has helped to ensure their survival, while also informing the world that this great ape needs to be protected from both human harm and the threat of extinction.
Unfortunately, orangutans are now facing extinction due to the encroachment of human civilization, especially because it causes the deforestation of their environment and disrupts their behavior. Furthermore, adult orangutans are killed in order to capture their infants; subsequently, these young orangutans often die in captivity. Adult orangutans are primarily loners, living in trees and surviving primarily on fruits and leaves.
There is no complex social behavior. Nevertheless, orangutans are intelligent. Unfortunately, in captivity, where they are removed from an active life in the trees, orangutans are prone to boredom and obesity; placing them in natural settings therefore improves their health and extends their longevity. Following in her footsteps, other primatologists will devote their efforts to studying this pongid in order to save this endangered great ape from vanishing completely.
The largest ape ever discovered is Gigantopithecus from fossil sites in China, India, and Vietnam. It existed from the Miocene epoch to about , years ago, but is now known only from its massive jaws and huge teeth especially its premolars and molars. In part, the extinction of Gigantopithecus may have been due to the evolutionary success of a competitor, Homo erectus.
Evidence suggests that, astonishingly, this fossil pongid might have stood over 9 feet tall and could have weighed at least pounds. Future research may discover a skeleton of this astonishingly huge ape, which is related to the living orangutan through primate evolution. The gorilla is the largest of the four great apes, and the two isolated subspecies are found living only in the forested areas of equatorial Africa.
In the footsteps of zoologist George B. Schaller, Dian Fossey dedicated her research to studying the wild mountain gorilla Gorilla gorilla beringei on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes in central East Africa Fossey, Not content with merely observing them from the safety of trees, she was the first primatologist to actually make contact with this large pongid.
Her efforts were rewarded with surprising findings that demolished the traditional view of the gorilla as a dangerous and ferocious ape. In fact, Fossey discovered that the gorilla is actually a shy, gentle, intelligent but introverted pongid. Gorillas are very intelligent and live in small social groups, each dominated by an adult silverback male who determines when the group members will move, eat, or rest.
There are also loner adult males. Gorillas eat fruits and leaves, and fear few predators except human poachers with weapons. Unfortunately, the natural range and population of wild gorillas are diminishing due to the ongoing encroachment of human settlements. For about 50 years, Jane Goodall has devoted her efforts to studying the wild chimpanzee or common chimpanzee Pan troglodytes at the Gombe Stream National Park near Lake Tanganyika in central Africa Goodall, , She has made significant discoveries about the social behavior of this very humanlike great ape.
Chimpanzees are very intelligent, are both arboreal and terrestrial, systematically make and use simple tools, and are capable of learning and communicating through symbols. They exhibit both intriguing and disturbing behavior patterns. Chimpanzees are aggressive, promiscuous, live in loosely structured and constantly changing social groups, and are capable of killing both their own infants and adults.
Chimpanzees communicate through distinct sounds, body movements, facial expressions, and social grooming. Chimpanzees crack open nuts using rocks or branches, and also use a bone pick to extract bone marrow. They also hunt and kill monkeys, adding meat to their otherwise usual diet of fruits, nuts, seeds, and leaves.
Since , scientists have known about the chimpanzeelike bonobo Pan paniscus or the so-called pygmy chimpanzee. Although they frequently walk on their knuckles, bonobos are capable of walking upright for short distances; they are taller and thinner than the common chimpanzee. Bonobos eat fruits, plants, and monkeys. There is strong bonding among adult females, and social groups may even be dominated by them. Sexual activity is pervasive among bonobos, strengthening group interactions and diminishing social tensions.
Several primatologists have focused their research on ape communication studies; for example, Francine Patterson has taught two lowland gorillas American Sign Language. However, her success and similar work by other biological anthropologists have come under sharp criticism by scientists who claim that the great apes are merely mimicking the behavior of their teachers.
Even so, anthropological research has revealed that pongids have greater mental ability than is suggested by merely observing their social behavior in natural habitats. Since the middle of the 20th century, the discipline of anthropology has striven to be relevant in terms of solving problems in the modern world. An outgrowth of biological anthropology, forensic anthropology focuses on the skeleton of our own species. As such, forensic anthropologists analyze and describe a human skeleton in order to determine the biological characteristics of a human corpse and, ideally, to make a positive identification of the deceased individual.
All human beings belong to the same genus, the same species, and the same subspecies: Homo sapiens sapiens. Consequently, each human individual is a biological variation on a common theme, that common theme being the genetic unity of humankind. Biological anthropologists specialize in understanding and appreciating our species in terms of primate evolution and human variation. The detailed study of a skeleton is crucial to forensic inquiry Schwartz, The human skeleton has bones, ranging from the large femur to the three small ear bones or ossicles Birx, a ; the glaring similarity among the hominid and pongid skeletons, of both living and fossil species, is convincing evidence for human evolution and our common ancestry with the great apes.
Osteological and dental remains help the forensic anthropologist determine the age, gender, height, weight, health, and ethnic background of an individual. Such studies may also reveal anomalies, mutations, and the results of past diseases and injuries. However, when present, other biological evidence may also determine the cause or manner of death, as well as help to identify suspects.
Yet, in some cases, a positive identification is never achieved. Furthermore, forensic anthropologists help to reconstruct a death scene. Forensic inquiry may determine that the death of an individual is due to murder, accident, suicide, or a natural cause; in some cases, the cause of death may remain unknown.
Forensic anthropologists use methods that have emerged in the history of biological anthropology and prehistoric archaeology e. Today, data banks of human bones and genetic fingerprints are now available for comparative studies, as well as the use of modern computers. Additional information comes from the DNA molecule, serology, entomology, toxicology, and ballistics among other areas of specialty. Likewise, forensic scientists help to reconstruct both a death scene and the face of a human corpse.
However, only human remains from the past 50 years have legal significance; in these cases, the forensic anthropologist may be an expert witness at a trial. The discipline of biological anthropology continues to shed light on the origin, evolution, and diversity of our own species, as well as its relationship to other primates both fossil and living forms. Each year, new discoveries in paleoanthropology add more empirical evidence that enhances our understanding of and appreciation for hominid evolution.
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