Human Origins: What Bones and Genomes Tell Us about Ourselvesby Rob DeSalle, Ian Tattersall
Ever since the recognition of the Neanderthals as an archaic human in the mid-nineteenth century, the fossilized bones of extinct humans have been used by paleoanthropologists to explore human origins. These bones told the story of how the earliest humansbipedal apes, actuallyfirst emerged in Africa some 6 to 7 million years ago. Starting about 2… See more details below
Ever since the recognition of the Neanderthals as an archaic human in the mid-nineteenth century, the fossilized bones of extinct humans have been used by paleoanthropologists to explore human origins. These bones told the story of how the earliest humansbipedal apes, actuallyfirst emerged in Africa some 6 to 7 million years ago. Starting about 2 million years ago, the bones revealed, as humans became anatomically and behaviorally more modern, they swept out of Africa in waves into Asia, Europe and finally the New World.
Even as paleoanthropologists continued to make important discoveriesMary Leakey’s Nutcracker Man in 1959, Don Johanson’s Lucy in 1974, and most recently Martin Pickford’s Millennium Man, to name just a fewexperts in genetics were looking at the human species from a very different angle. In 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick first saw the double helix structure of DNA, the basic building block of all life. In the 1970s it was shown that humans share 98.7% of their genes with the great apesthat in fact genetically we are more closely related to chimpanzees than chimpanzees are to gorillas. And most recently the entire human genome has been mappedwe now know where each of the genes on the chromosomes that make up DNA is located on the double helix.
In Human Origins: What Bones and Genomes Tell Us about Ourselves, two of the world’s foremost scientists, geneticist Rob DeSalle and paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall, show how research into the human genome confirms what fossil bones have told us about human origins. This unprecedented integration of the fossil and genomic records provides the most complete understanding possible of humanity’s place in nature, its emergence from the rest of the living world, and the evolutionary processes that have molded human populations to be what they are today.
Human Origins serves as a companion volume to the American Museum of Natural History’s new permanent exhibit, as well as standing alone as an accessible overview of recent insights into what it means to be human.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Thinking About Our Origins 10
Chapter 2 Paleoanthropology 32
Chapter 3 What's in a Genome? 48
Chapter 4 Evolution and Human Origins 68
Chapter 5 The Place of Homo sapiens in the Tree of Life 90
Chapter 6 The Human Evolution Story 112
Chapter 7 Luck and Hard Work 138
Chapter 8 The Brain-The Key 166
Chapter 9 The Importance of Language 190
Epilogue: One in a Billion 202
Further Reading 210
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