Report: Strategic research program needed to determine whether, how past climate influenced human evolution

March 3, 2010

Understanding how past climate may have influenced human evolution could be dramatically enhanced by an international cross-disciplinary research program to improve the sparse human fossil and incomplete climate records and examine the link between the two, says a new report from the National Research Council.

Climate and fossil records suggest that some events in human evolution -- such as the evolution of new species or movements out of Africa -- coincided with substantial changes in African and Eurasian . This raises the intriguing possibility that environmental factors affected or controlled our species' evolution. By altering the landscape, past changes in climate may have exerted pressures that led to genetic selection and innovation in humans. But because the human fossil record and our understanding of past are incomplete, the details of how climates influenced human evolution remain unclear.

The report recommends several research initiatives over the next 10 to 20 years:

  • a major effort to locate new fossil sites using modern remote-sensing tools and traditional ground examination. In addition, many existing sites should be further analyzed to better determine when species first appeared and then disappeared, along with noting specific adaptations and behaviors. Currently, efforts to understand links between climate and evolution are limited by gaps in the human fossil record.
  • a comprehensive program to drill on land and in lakes and ocean basins in the regions where humans evolved. An integrated drilling program should be part of a larger effort to collect more data to reconstruct past environments -- including temperatures, precipitation, and vegetation -- near human sites. Describing the plants and animals that lived with our human ancestors is a key component for understanding past environments.
  • a major investment in climate modeling experiments for the key time intervals and regions that are critical for understanding human evolution. The objective would be to characterize regional and local climates in the areas where humans evolved and to integrate these modeling experiments with records of the past ecology and environment.
  • an enhanced public outreach effort, including teaching curricula and traveling exhibitions, that takes advantage of broad public interest in and climate change.
A public briefing to discuss the report's findings and recommendations will be held on March 31 at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Several members of the committee that wrote the report will present and answer audience questions. For more information, please call or e-mail the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

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1 / 5 (2) Mar 03, 2010
"climate 'may have' influenced human evolution"
"our understanding of past climate conditions are 'incomplete'" "'limited' by 'gaps in the human fossil record'" You can say that again.

I sense that there is a lack of any evidence for evolution, or anything else in this article. This is spoken loud and clear. Since the evolution you speak of, that is, from a single celled critter to monkeys, and then to humans, has no proof, you must find excuses to propagate the fiction by adding some climate nonsense.

So why concern yourself over climate effects on something that didn't happen?
It is like saying, "How did the climate influence the space aliens that landed in Washington DC last week to speak with Obama". Just as believable of a story.

Good luck finding those "Missing link" human fossils.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2010
breadhead. The fossil link is trapped in your genes, DNA and the other one!

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