A Companion to Paleoanthropology by David R. Begun (ed.)

By David R. Begun (ed.)

A spouse to Paleoanthropology provides a compendium of readings from top students within the box that outline our present wisdom of the foremost discoveries and advancements in human origins and human evolution, tracing the fossil checklist from primate and hominid origins to the dispersal of recent people around the globe. Represents an obtainable state of the art precis of the total box of paleoanthropology, Read more...

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Chapter 25 opens the final section of the book and introduces us to the genus Homo, covering the earliest members of our genus. While some consider these species (Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis) to be australopiths, most researchers recognize synapomorphies (shared derived characters) with later Homo not found in Australopithecus. Early Homo in general has larger brains and smaller or at least less prognathic faces than most australopiths. Their anterior (incisors and canines) and postcanine (premolars and molars) teeth are also more “balanced,” with size proportions resembling modern humans, though in absolute size all teeth are larger than in modern humans.

GOODRUM evolution came from comparing the anatomy and physiology of humans with living primates and from collecting anthropological information about contemporary human races. His ideas spurred research in these areas in the hope of finding evidence for his theory, but some advocates of the idea of human evolution realized that finding fossil remains of human ancestors would be critical. The English naturalist Thomas Henry Huxley surveyed the anatomical and paleontological evidence for human evolution in Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature (1863) and the German biologist Ernst Haeckel even proposed in 1868 a hypothetical ape-like human ancestor he called Pithecanthropus alalus.

New techniques of analysis of fossils, such as highresolution CT imaging, and a deeper understanding of the function of the brain will help us to understand more completely the reasons behind the spectacular evolution of the human brain. Chapter 9 (Ungar and Sponheimer) focuses on research related to reconstructing the diet of our fossil ancestors, based on the anatomy of the jaws and teeth and from the dueling perspectives of the effects of the mechanical properties of food on our teeth and the chemical signals left behind by the foods we eat.

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