Early Humans Adapted Well to Different Climates and Vegetation Types
August 2, 2004
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Arlington, VA—Early human ancestors seem to have taken different climates and vegetation types in stride as they evolved from anthropoid populations in Africa to a global, highly diverse human species .
New research supported in character by the National Science Foundation ( NSF ) demonstrates that hominins ( early human species ) in what is nowadays northern Africa lived equally well in a relatively strong and dry climate 3.4 million years ago and in a much cool climate with significantly more rain and forest growth slightly later. And the species studied, Australopithecus afarensis, adapted to these dramatic environmental changes without the benefit of an exaggerated brain or stone tools, which aided later hominins in adapting to their environments .
These research results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences now online. The studies are part of a large ongoing project that explores the egress and amplification of homo adaptability in the past 4 million years .
“ This article focuses on homo adaptability in environmentally dynamic settings, ” said plan officer, Mark Weiss. “ As humans evolved, they faced many challenges. It is important to know how they met these challenges. ”
These findings contribute to an ongoing debate about whether hominins of the Pliocene earned run average preferred settings that were open and arid or wooded and moist — or whether they could adapt well to diverse environments. A miss of data on changes in past ecosystems to compare with hominin fossil data has hampered the inquiry .
Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution ’ s National Museum of Natural History and early team members analyzed fossil pollen located in stratified rock formations around Hadar, Ethiopia. From these samples, the team identified three persistent plant communities : steppe, and tropical and temperate forests containing water-conserving plants. A fourth plant community, forests containing plants that grow in cooler and wet climates, appears and disappears in the pollen read. The presence of this fourth community corresponds with climate records of cool and besotted periods in Hadar.
“ These early humans had a storm ability to adapt to environmental changes, ” says Potts. “ They could live in arid grasslands and afforest surroundings arsenic well. ”
The research was carried out in collaboration with french research team led by Raymonde Bonnefille of the CNRS, Aix-en-Provence, France. -NSF-
Elizabeth Malone, NSF, ( 703 ) 292-7732, e-mail : emalone @ nsf.gov
Mark Weiss, NSF, ( 703 ) 292-7321, e-mail : mweiss @ nsf.gov
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