Human evolution really is a hot topic in science. Almost every week we can hear about new discoveries. These are not only published in scientific journals, but are also widely reported in different media, newspapers, blogs, TV, and radio.
Just last week we heard about footprints preserved along the coast of Norfolk in the UK. These are the oldest footprints discovered so far outside of Africa and are supposed to date to more than 800 000 years ago.
A few weeks earlier, we could read that a group of researchers had now sequenced the whole Neanderthal genome, and that all people who live outside of Africa carry some of the Neanderthal genes. ‘Outside of Africa’ is in this respect of course a strange term, because today people move all around the globe!
Where and when Neanderthals and modern humans met is still a topic of debate, although the best guess is that they encountered each other some 60 000 years ago, when modern humans emigrated from Africa and crossed Neanderthal territory in what is today Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Syria. These Neanderthals, who eventually died out, gave us some genes, which we would prefer we had not got, such as diabetes. We will learn much more about Neanderthals and their DNA in March, when Matthias Jakobsson from Uppsala will give his lecture.
In last week’s Human Evolution course, we talked about evolution, bipedalism, and about the first contestants for bipedalism. For those students who would like to read more about these topics, here are some links, some are in English and some are in Swedish:
A lot has been written about Ardipithecus ramidus, even in Swedish. Here are a few links (in Swedish):
And finally for those of you who want to know more about the Leakey family