Friday, December 21, 2007

Geologic Impact to Early Human Evolution

Another interesting article from Livescience, this time regarding early human evolution. Geology may have been an important and overlooked factor in the development of humanity.

"It's fairly well-established that changing climate, and thus vegetation, in East Africa spurred human evolution, but there has been no agreement about what exactly caused that change, said Royhan Gani. He thinks the riddle's answer is in rocks, and how big slabs of it move — altering continents and building mountains — by a process called tectonics."

Gani believes that the tectonic uplift process that occured (and is still) in Eastern Africa 3-6 million years ago, which has caused the land in the region to dramatically elevate over this period, contributed to human development by drying up the tropical and subtropical rain forest and changing the biome to a drier savanna type environment.

This in turn forced early primate species out of the forests and out onto grasslands which sped the development of bipedalism. Around 4.1 million years ago, the early human ancestor Australopithecus anamensis, one of the first bipedal primates, developed - in almost exactly the same region and time period where the forest was thinning into savanna.

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