Evolution began with four men thatdiscovered certain factors contributing to how one may have evolved. Forinstance, Lamarck (1744-1829) uncovered the “inheritance of acquiredcharacteristics” and he also made a model which depicted how the change in foodsource led to development of greater stature in individuals and then futuregenerations were born with increased stature (Davis January 16, 2018). Anotherman, Charles Darwin (1809-1882), founded natural selection and his modelbrought to attention that environmental change selects for differentialreproduction of taller giraffes within variable population and then theselection continues (Davis January 16, 2018).
Later, Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)proposed three foundational principles of inheritance which helped usunderstand how traits are inherited through one’s genes. Mendel used peasbecause 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 thespontaneous change in genetic code (Davis January 16, 2018).
There are many similarities betweenhumans (Homo sapiens) and other primates and our fossil human ancestors, aswell as differences in anatomical and behavioral characteristics. Theanatomical characteristics that make us human compared with other primates isthat we have grasping hands and feet, consist of forward-facing eyes, have arelatively larger brain, bipedal and rotating forearm (Davis January 18, 2018).In addition to those characteristics primates also have nails. Also, somesimilarities in both species’ behavioral characteristics are we walk upright ontwo legs and we are very vocal and communicative when it comes to socializationwith other primates in a specific group (Smithsonian Institute). All primatesare some type of tree-dwellers (arboreal), which allow them to climb trees andthese include: a rotating shoulder joint, separated big toes, a thumb to grasponto anything, and stereoscopic vision. Primates also have claws which slowlyevolved into flattened nails (“The Evolution of Primates”). Non-primates differ from primates inanatomical characteristics such as having relatively smaller brains thanprimates, although some non-primates are intelligent; for example, pigs haveproblem-solving abilities (Lakna, “Difference between Primates and NonPrimates”).
Non-primates mainly rely on smell, as for primates they rely mainlyon vision. Non-primates lack a clavicle and primates possess a clavicle. Somenon-primates have limbs for locomotion, but as for primates, they havedexterous limbs which are having skill especially with hands as I had mentionedbefore (Lakna, “Difference between Primates and Non Primates”).
Some behavioralcharacteristics are, non-primates are seasonal breeders since they copulateonly during favorable seasons. As for primates, they are continuous breeders asthey mate in every season. Non-primate females have an oestrous cycle andprimate females have a menstrual cycle (Lakna, “Difference between Primates andNon Primates”).
The earliest documented Homo is Homohabilis, approximately evolved 2.8 million years ago, this species used stonetools, and it is also known as the “handyman” (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). Homohabilis was proposed to move into Australopithecus africanus according to itsskeleton 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 tohomo sapiens in that they were the lineage to evolve the later species.
Homorudolfensis which evolved after homo habilis approximately 1.9-1.8 millionyears ago, shows an incomplete skull from Kenya and scientists presume theoutcome is that of the species Homo habilis, but they are not sure yet if it istrue (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia).
The Homo habilis and rudolfensis are notknown 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 largecranial capacity which was an anatomical characteristic that joined bothspecies. Homo erectus and Homo ergaster were later discovered in Africa andwere believed to be the first to use fire and complex tools and were first toleave Africa, as they fled Africa eventually spread throughout Asia and Europebetween 1.3 to 1.8 million years ago (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). Theevolution of the foramen magnum and the locking of knees were thought to be thereason for larger population changes (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). “PekingMan” was is an example of Homo erectus, it was discovered in China; many anthropologistsuse Homo ergaster as the term for non-Asian groups (“Human Evolution”,Wikipedia). Homo erectus related to Homo sapiens in that their anatomical andbehavioral characteristics changed by having relatively long legs and shorterarms (just like humans) which helped them to walk long distances and even run.
About 700,000-200,000 B.P, anotherspecies evolved known as Homo heidelbergensis, they were considered to havebeen descended from modern humans. The homo heidelbergensis population that didnot migrate and stayed in Africa are known to have evolved into modern humans (“Homoheidelbergensis”, Wikipedia). Homo heidelbergensis had a very large brow ridge,a flatter face, and a larger brain relative to any older early human species. Theaverage height for males was 5 feet 9 inches and weight for males was 136pounds, 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 outof wood and rock (Smithsonian Institute). They used fire-altered tools andburnt wood at a site in Israel. Homo heidelbergensis was also the first hunterof large animals, such as, deer, horses, etc.
This species relates to Homosapiens in that they can handle cold weather by how their bodies were built inorder to conserve heat. It also lived at the time of the use of spears and huntingrelatively large animals (Smithsonian Institute). Homo neandertalensis 400,000-40,000B.P was the most recent species to Homo sapiens, they lived in Europe and Asiato about 28,000 years ago. There are some anatomical differences betweenNeanderthals and modern human such as, being less inclined to losing body heatand adaptation to severe cold environments. Neanderthals also had large brainslike modern humans and they had better visual acuity than the modern humans.They seemed to be more physically superior to modern human populations (“HumanEvolution”, Wikipedia).
Although there are these few differences, Neanderthalsdid interbreed with anatomically modern humans who migrated from Africa todifferent parts of the world like Europe and Asia. With larger populations,social and technological innovations made it a bit easier to fix in humanpopulations (“Human Evolution”, Wikipedia). These species related to homosapiens by their anatomical characteristics being human like, for exampleangled cheek bones, huge nose for humidifying dry air, and bodies were shortermore so proportional. Their behavioral characteristics were that they lived inshelters, made and wore clothing, were skilled hunters of large animals, andalso ate plant foods (veganism). These species are the first to have buried itsdead and occasionally marked their graves with flowers or other offerings; noother primate or earlier human species had ever done this type of behaviorbefore (Smithsonian Institute).
What has interested me the mostabout being human thus far is mainly how we evolved from a species thatrepresents ape like features to what we are now. The tools that were used bythese different species during an era so long ago also has interested mebecause it’s enlightening to know how all of this occurred. I was surprised tofind out about how Neanderthals were the closest homo genus to modern humansand how differently they did certain things as to opposed how we would do itnow in this modern era. The amount of similar characteristics that we hadbetween other primate species was also very surprising and interesting. I wasalso surprised by the characteristics that were similar and different inprimates and non-primates. It really interested me to learn about so muchinformation that had to be collected in order to gather all this data and finda 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 createconnections around you with other people and creatures. It means being made upof so many other primates. Also, being created into a human with theintellectual abilities and physical abilities to do or be anything we desireand function in a way that is our own species. We are a creature that isintelligent and advanced enough that we observe ourselves in any conditiongiven. Being human also means having social experience just like the otherspecies did within their primate group.