Eyes, brains and thumbs: the wonders of primate evolution (April 29 – May 3)

During our last week we will concentrate on primate and specifically human evolution. We look closely at our own lineage not just because it is of immediate interest to us, but also so we can directly apply concepts of evolutionary theory to organisms intimately familiar to us. The Web has almost as many sites on issues of human evolution as it does on dinosaurs, so most of the pages I link you to provide many other connections. Start first with the Institute of Human Origins based at Arizona State University. They have an excellent additional website called “becoming human“. The Wikipedia page on primates and their evolution is an excellent summary and source of references.

Note the Australopithecus sediba story. And that for Homo luzonensis. And Homo floresiensis. And now the latest discovery of a Denisovan jawbone in Tibet. There are so many new finds on this topic that we’re still sorting them out.

As you examine these websites, please also keep in mind that the fossil record of hominid evolution has produced numerous competing hypotheses, so you will find many disagreements, even on what seem to be basic observations. (Note, for example, the popular pseudoscience surrounding the “aquatic ape hypothesis“.) As an example of the hype and expectations that have dogged the study of human evolution for over a century, here is the classic story of Piltdown Man.

Here is the Spring 2019 Final Exam description. (Monday, May 6, Noon-2:00 pm; test seating: Students with last names starting with A through L in Room 205; M-Z in Room 216.) Our review session will be Friday, May 3, 3:30-4:30 pm.

Mastodon tooth surface (Pleistocene, Holmes County, Ohio).

Geology in the News –

When methane hydrates are in the news, it is rarely good. The warming of the Arctic with the epic thawing of permafrost, is already producing thermal feedback and massive expenses.

With new technology (and ideas), our concepts of the Earth’s interior have become more complex. The core-mantle interface is especially interesting. We may at last be learning about the origin of mantle plumes.

Check out this newly described carnivorous mammal larger than a polar bear. It is 22 million years old and African. The specialized teeth of Simbakubwa kutokaafrika are impressive.

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