Evolution began with four men that
discovered certain factors contributing to how one may have evolved. For
instance, Lamarck (1744-1829) uncovered the “inheritance of acquired
characteristics” and he also made a model which depicted how the change in food
source led to development of greater stature in individuals and then future
generations were born with increased stature (Davis January 16, 2018). Another
man, Charles Darwin (1809-1882), founded natural selection and his model
brought to attention that environmental change selects for differential
reproduction of taller giraffes within variable population and then the
selection continues (Davis January 16, 2018). Later, Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
proposed three foundational principles of inheritance which helped us
understand how traits are inherited through one’s genes. Mendel used peas
because it was easier to control their fertilization and for a flower for it to
“self-fertilize.” (Miko, “Gregor Mendel and the Principles of Inheritance”).

Lastly, De Vries (1848-1935) discovered mutations which was mainly the
spontaneous change in genetic code (Davis January 16, 2018).

There are many similarities between
humans (Homo sapiens) and other primates and our fossil human ancestors, as
well as differences in anatomical and behavioral characteristics. The
anatomical characteristics that make us human compared with other primates is
that we have grasping hands and feet, consist of forward-facing eyes, have a
relatively larger brain, bipedal and rotating forearm (Davis January 18, 2018).

In addition to those characteristics primates also have nails. Also, some
similarities in both species’ behavioral characteristics are we walk upright on
two legs and we are very vocal and communicative when it comes to socialization
with other primates in a specific group (Smithsonian Institute). All primates
are some type of tree-dwellers (arboreal), which allow them to climb trees and
these include: a rotating shoulder joint, separated big toes, a thumb to grasp
onto anything, and stereoscopic vision. Primates also have claws which slowly
evolved into flattened nails (“The Evolution of Primates”).

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            Non-primates differ from primates in
anatomical characteristics such as having relatively smaller brains than
primates, although some non-primates are intelligent; for example, pigs have
problem-solving abilities (Lakna, “Difference between Primates and Non
Primates”). Non-primates mainly rely on smell, as for primates they rely mainly
on vision. Non-primates lack a clavicle and primates possess a clavicle. Some
non-primates have limbs for locomotion, but as for primates, they have
dexterous limbs which are having skill especially with hands as I had mentioned
before (Lakna, “Difference between Primates and Non Primates”). Some behavioral
characteristics are, non-primates are seasonal breeders since they copulate
only during favorable seasons. As for primates, they are continuous breeders as
they mate in every season. Non-primate females have an oestrous cycle and
primate females have a menstrual cycle (Lakna, “Difference between Primates and
Non Primates”).

            The earliest documented Homo is Homo
habilis, approximately evolved 2.8 million years ago, this species used stone
tools, and it is also known as the “handyman” (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). Homo
habilis was proposed to move into Australopithecus africanus according to its
skeleton morphology, as they were being more adapted to living in the trees,
rather than walking on two legs like Homo sapiens. Homo habilis is related to
homo sapiens in that they were the lineage to evolve the later species. Homo
rudolfensis which evolved after homo habilis approximately 1.9-1.8 million
years ago, shows an incomplete skull from Kenya and scientists presume the
outcome is that of the species Homo habilis, but they are not sure yet if it is
true (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). The Homo habilis and rudolfensis are not
known to be close to the Homo sapiens due to their behavioral characteristics.

The homo rudolfensis is related to homo sapiens in that they had a large
cranial capacity which was an anatomical characteristic that joined both
species. Homo erectus and Homo ergaster were later discovered in Africa and
were believed to be the first to use fire and complex tools and were first to
leave Africa, as they fled Africa eventually spread throughout Asia and Europe
between 1.3 to 1.8 million years ago (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). The
evolution of the foramen magnum and the locking of knees were thought to be the
reason for larger population changes (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). “Peking
Man” was is an example of Homo erectus, it was discovered in China; many anthropologists
use Homo ergaster as the term for non-Asian groups (“Human Evolution”,
Wikipedia). Homo erectus related to Homo sapiens in that their anatomical and
behavioral characteristics changed by having relatively long legs and shorter
arms (just like humans) which helped them to walk long distances and even run.

About 700,000-200,000 B.P, another
species evolved known as Homo heidelbergensis, they were considered to have
been descended from modern humans. The homo heidelbergensis population that did
not migrate and stayed in Africa are known to have evolved into modern humans (“Homo
heidelbergensis”, Wikipedia). Homo heidelbergensis had a very large brow ridge,
a flatter face, and a larger brain relative to any older early human species. The
average height for males was 5 feet 9 inches and weight for males was 136
pounds, which is very near to human average weight and height (Smithsonian Institute).

It was the first species to also live in colder climates and built shelters out
of wood and rock (Smithsonian Institute). They used fire-altered tools and
burnt wood at a site in Israel. Homo heidelbergensis was also the first hunter
of large animals, such as, deer, horses, etc. This species relates to Homo
sapiens in that they can handle cold weather by how their bodies were built in
order to conserve heat. It also lived at the time of the use of spears and hunting
relatively large animals (Smithsonian Institute).

            Homo neandertalensis 400,000-40,000
B.P was the most recent species to Homo sapiens, they lived in Europe and Asia
to about 28,000 years ago. There are some anatomical differences between
Neanderthals and modern human such as, being less inclined to losing body heat
and adaptation to severe cold environments. Neanderthals also had large brains
like modern humans and they had better visual acuity than the modern humans.

They seemed to be more physically superior to modern human populations (“Human
Evolution”, Wikipedia). Although there are these few differences, Neanderthals
did interbreed with anatomically modern humans who migrated from Africa to
different parts of the world like Europe and Asia. With larger populations,
social and technological innovations made it a bit easier to fix in human
populations (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). These species related to homo
sapiens by their anatomical characteristics being human like, for example
angled cheek bones, huge nose for humidifying dry air, and bodies were shorter
more so proportional. Their behavioral characteristics were that they lived in
shelters, made and wore clothing, were skilled hunters of large animals, and
also ate plant foods (veganism). These species are the first to have buried its
dead and occasionally marked their graves with flowers or other offerings; no
other primate or earlier human species had ever done this type of behavior
before (Smithsonian Institute).

What has interested me the most
about being human thus far is mainly how we evolved from a species that
represents ape like features to what we are now. The tools that were used by
these different species during an era so long ago also has interested me
because it’s enlightening to know how all of this occurred. I was surprised to
find out about how Neanderthals were the closest homo genus to modern humans
and how differently they did certain things as to opposed how we would do it
now in this modern era. The amount of similar characteristics that we had
between other primate species was also very surprising and interesting. I was
also surprised by the characteristics that were similar and different in
primates and non-primates. It really interested me to learn about so much
information that had to be collected in order to gather all this data and find
a species that was known to be evolved as a modern human (homo sapien).

            So, what does it mean to be human?
This means that one has the anatomical and behavioral characteristics to create
connections around you with other people and creatures. It means being made up
of so many other primates. Also, being created into a human with the
intellectual abilities and physical abilities to do or be anything we desire
and function in a way that is our own species. We are a creature that is
intelligent and advanced enough that we observe ourselves in any condition
given. Being human also means having social experience just like the other
species did within their primate group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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