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TOPIC: Homo Sapiens


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Evolution of human 'super-brain' tied to development of bipedalism, tool-making

CU-Boulder Research Associate John Hoffecker said there is abundant fossil and archaeological evidence for the evolution of the human mind, including its unique power to create a potentially infinite variety of thoughts expressed in the form of sentences, art and technologies. He attributes the evolving power of the mind to the formation of what he calls the "super-brain," or collective mind, an event that took place in Africa no later than 75,000 years ago.
An internationally known archaeologist who has worked at sites in Europe and the Arctic, Hoffecker said the formation of the super-brain was a consequence of a rare ability to share complex thoughts among individual brains. Among other creatures on Earth, the honeybee may be the best example of an organism that has mastered the trick of communicating complex information -- including maps of food locations and information on potential nest sites from one brain to another -- using their intricate "waggle dance."

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Fossil footprints of early modern humans found in Tanzania

Newly discovered fossil footprints at a site in northern Tanzania on the shore of Lake Natron capture a moment in time around 120,000 years ago when a band of 18 humans--early members of our own species, Homo sapiens --traipsed across wet volcanic ash to an unknown destination. Brian Richmond of George Washington University unveiled the stunning find here on April 13 at the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society.
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Tectonic plates will shift, volcanoes will erupt, solar storms will blow our way, and the occasional meteorite or other celestial debris will collide with the Earth. The Earth's crust is constantly in motion -- and has been since long before our species made its recent appearance.
All of our hopes, wishes and engineering efforts will not prevent these eventualities from occurring and forcing us to try to deal with the consequences.
Mankind's track record in modifying the environment is replete with unintended consequences. I shudder to think of what the consequences would be of further human efforts to "tame" the Earth.

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Study says use of fire relatively recent in Europe

Most archaeologists agree that the use of fire is tied to colonization outside Africa, especially in Europe where temperatures fall below freezing, wrote Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands and Paola Villa of the University of Colorado.
Yet, while there is evidence of early humans living in Europe as much as a million years ago, the researchers found no clear traces of regular use of fire before about 400,000 years ago.

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The first hominins to migrate into Europe may have done so without fire.

The logical argument that ancient human ancestors had to have mastered fire before departing balmy Africa for the often freezing climes of Europe is being challenged by a review revealing that there is no evidence to support the idea.
Wil Roebroeks at Leiden University in the Netherlands and Paola Villa at the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder, searched the European archaeological record for fires and found that the earliest possible evidence comes from two 400,000-year-old sites, one in England that seems to have the remains of an ancient hearth and one in Germany that has a charred wooden tool and heated flint present. Older sites in England, Italy and Spain showed no evidence of fire mastery. These observations are problematic because ancient human ancestors migrated into the cold European climate more than a million years ago, implying that they survived for 600,000 or so without fire.

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Scientists believe men once had small spines on their genitalia such as those found in chimpanzees, cats and mice.
Analysis of the genomes of humans, chimpanzees and macaques indicates that a DNA sequence thought to play a role in the production of these spines have been deleted in humans, but has been preserved in other primates

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Southern Africa origins for humans, study suggests

Modern humans may have originated from southern Africa, an extensive genetic study has suggested.
Data showed that hunter-gatherer populations in the region had the greatest degree of genetic diversity, which is an indicator of longevity.
It says that the region was probably the best location for the origin of modern humans, challenging the view that we came from eastern Africa.

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A genetic study challenges the idea that modern humans evolved in eastern Africa.

A genetic analysis of modern hunter-gatherer populations in Africa suggests that humans evolved in the south of the continent, rather than the east, as has been thought. The work presents a major challenge to evidence from anthropology, as the earliest anatomically modern human skulls have all been found in eastern Africa; and to genetics, as humans in the rest of the world all carry a subset of genes found specifically in eastern Africa.
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Australopithecus africanus
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Our ancestors lived on shaky ground

Scientists find link between tectonically active landscapes and ancient sites

Our earliest ancestors preferred to settle in locations that have something in common with cities such as San Francisco, Naples and Istanbul - they are often on active tectonic faults in areas that have an earthquake risk or volcanoes, or both.
An international team of scientists has established a link between the shape of the landscape and the habitats preferred by our earliest ancestors. The research, by scientists at the University of the Wi****ersrand, South Africa, the University of York and the Institut de Physique du Globe Paris (IPGP), is published in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

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The Human Goldilocks Zone
The Kuril Islands formed by a collision of tectonic plates, are nearly abandoned today, but anthropologists have learned that thousands of people have lived there on and off as far back as at least 6000 B.C., persevering despite natural disasters.
Understanding what made residents stay and how they survived could inform how we adapt to modern vulnerabilities, including climate change. The findings also have implications for how we rebound from contemporary catastrophes, such as the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, hurricanes Katrina and Rita and last year's earthquake in Haiti.

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