Monday, December 31, 2012

Environment Highly Variable For Early Humans

The Telegraph is reporting a story out of PNAS that suggest that the environment was highly variable during a critical point in our evolution.  They write:
The early landscape shifted between woodland to grassland half a dozen times over 200,000 years, meaning man had to adapt to survive.

Experts from Penn State university say that this may have set the tone for the rapid evolution which then took place.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Clayton Magill said: "The landscape early humans were inhabiting transitioned rapidly back and forth between a closed woodland and an open grassland about five to six times during a period of 200,000 years.

"These changes happened very abruptly, with each transition occurring over hundreds to just a few thousand years."

The findings appear to contradict previous theories which suggest evolutionary changes were gradual, and in response to either long and steady climate change or one drastic change.
The general consensus is that that there was a gradual drying out of the environment that led to the hominins taking over the savanna.  It is not clear that these hypervariable changes will correspond to abrupt changes in hominin form but it could partially explain the somewhat sudden appearance on early Homo.  We shall see.  

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