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Human Evolution

Human Evolution

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Published by krishna
Human Evolution, lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people evolved over a period of at least 6 million years.

Human Evolution, lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people evolved over a period of at least 6 million years.

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Published by: krishna on Apr 21, 2009
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Human Evolution
I
INTRODUCTION
Sites of Early Human Fossils and Artifacts
Scientists have discovered the bones and artifacts of early humans in many parts of Africa and Eurasia. The earliesthumans, known as australopithecines, lived only in Africa. The modern human genus, Homo, also evolved in Africa,but several middle and late Homo species migrated to Europe and Asia. Early forms of Homo sapiens, or modernhumans, lived in Africa and Asia. Only fully modern humans populated the rest of the globe.© Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Human Evolution, lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors.Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people evolved over aperiod of at least 6 million years.One of the earliest defining human traits,
bipedalism
—walking on two legs as the primary form of locomotion—evolved more than 4 million years ago. Other important human characteristics—such as alarge and complex brain, the ability to make and use tools, and the capacity for language—developedmore recently. Many advanced traits—including complex symbolic expression, such as art, andelaborate cultural diversity—emerged mainly during the past 100,000 years.Humans are primates. Physical and genetic similarities show that the modern human species,
Homosapiens,
has a very close relationship to another group of primate species, the apes. Humans and theso-called great apes (large apes) of Africa—chimpanzees (including bonobos, or so-called pygmychimpanzees) and gorillas—share a common ancestor that lived sometime between 8 million and 6million years ago. The earliest humans evolved in Africa, and much of human evolution occurred onthat continent. The fossils of early humans who lived between 6 million and 2 million years ago comeentirely from Africa.
 
Tree of Human Evolution
Fossil evidence indicates that the first humans evolved from ape ancestors at least 6 million years ago. Manyspecies of humans followed, but only some left descendants on the branch leading to Homo sapiens. In this slideshow, white skulls represent species that lived during the time period indicated; gray skulls represent extincthuman species.© Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Most scientists distinguish among 12 to 19 different species of early humans. Scientists do not allagree, however, about how the species are related or which ones simply died out. Many early humanspecies—probably the majority of them—left no descendants. Scientists also debate over how toidentify and classify particular species of early humans, and about what factors influenced theevolution and extinction of each species.Early humans first migrated out of Africa into Asia probably between 2 million and 1.7 million yearsago. They entered Europe somewhat later, generally within the past 1 million years. Species of modernhumans populated many parts of the world much later. For instance, people first came to Australiaprobably within the past 60,000 years, and to the Americas within the past 35,000 years. Thebeginnings of agriculture and the rise of the first civilizations occurred within the past 10,000 years. The scientific study of human evolution is called
 paleoanthropology 
. Paleoanthropology is a subfield of anthropology, the study of human culture, society, and biology
.
Paleoanthropologists search for theroots of human physical traits and behavior. They seek to discover how evolution has shaped thepotentials, tendencies, and limitations of all people. For many people, paleoanthropology is an excitingscientific field because it illuminates the origins of the defining traits of the human species, as well asthe fundamental connections between humans and other living organisms on Earth. Scientists haveabundant evidence of human evolution from fossils, artifacts, and genetic studies. However, somepeople find the concept of human evolution troubling because it can seem to conflict with religious andother traditional beliefs about how people, other living things, and the world came to be. Yet manypeople have come to reconcile such beliefs with the scientific evidence.
II
 THE PROCESS OF EVOLUTION
 
Modern and Early Humans
Humans have undergone major anatomical changes over the course of evolution. This illustration depictsAustralopithecus afarensis (center), the earliest of the three species; Homo erectus (left), an intermediate species;and Homo sapiens (right), a modern human. H. erectus and modern humans are much taller than A. afarensis andhave flatter faces and much larger brains. Modern humans have a larger brain than H. erectus and an almost flatface beneath the front of the braincase. John Sibbick/National Geographic Society
All species of organisms originate through the process of biological evolution. In this process, newspecies arise from a series of natural changes. In animals that reproduce sexually, including humans,the term
species
refers to a group whose adult members regularly interbreed, resulting in fertileoffspring—that is, offspring themselves capable of reproducing. Scientists classify each species with aunique, two-part scientific name. In this system, modern humans are classified as
Homo sapiens.
 The mechanism for evolutionary change resides in genes—the basic units of heredity. Genes affecthow the body and behavior of an organism develop during its life. The information contained in genescan change—a process known as mutation
.
The way particular genes are expressed—how they affectthe body or behavior of an organism—can also change. Over time, genetic change can alter a species’soverall way of life, such as what it eats, how it grows, and where it can live.Genetic changes can improve the ability of organisms to survive, reproduce, and, in animals, raiseoffspring. This process is called adaptation. Parents pass adaptive genetic changes to their offspring,and ultimately these changes become common throughout a
 population
—a group of organisms of thesame species that share a particular local habitat. Many factors can favor new adaptations, butchanges in the environment often play a role. Ancestral human species adapted to new environmentsas their genes changed, altering their anatomy (physical body structure), physiology (bodily functions,such as digestion), and behavior. Over long periods, evolution dramatically transformed humans andtheir ways of life.

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