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After several million years of jostling for ecological space, only one survivor from a host of hominid species remains standing: us. Human beings are extraordinary creatures, and it is the unprecedented human brain that makes them so. In this delightfully accessible book, the authors present the first full, step-by-step account of the evolution of the brain and nervous system. Tapping the very latest findings in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and molecular biology, Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall explain how the cognitive gulf that separates us from all other living creatures could have occurred. They discuss the development and uniqueness of human consciousness, how human and nonhuman brains work, the roles of different nerve cells, the importance of memory and language in brain functions, and much more. Our brains, they conclude, are the product of a lengthy and supremely untidy history--an evolutionary process of many zigs and zags--that has accidentally resulted in a splendidly eccentric and creative product.
This 3-volume handbook brings together contributions by the world´s leading specialists that reflect the broad spectrum of modern palaeoanthropology, thus presenting an indispensable resource for professionals and students alike. Vol. 1 reviews principles, methods, and approaches, recounting recent advances and state-of-the-art knowledge in phylogenetic analysis, palaeoecology and evolutionary theory and philosophy. Vol. 2 examines primate origins, evolution, behaviour, and adaptive variety, emphasizing integration of fossil data with contemporary knowledge of the behaviour and ecology of living primates in natural environments. Vol. 3 deals with fossil and molecular evidence for the evolution of Homo sapiens and its fossil relatives.
Ever since the recognition of the Neanderthals as an archaic form of human in the mid-nineteenth century, the fossilized bones of extinct humans have been used by paleoanthropologists to explore human origins. These bones tell the story of how the earliest humans first emerged in Africa some 6 to 7 million years ago. The bones also reveal that as humans became anatomically and behaviorally more modern, they swept out of Africa in waves into Asia, Europe, and finally into the New World. Even as paleoanthropologists continued to make important discoveries, experts in genetics were looking at the human species from a very different angle. In 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick first envisioned the double helix structure of DNA, the basic building block of all life. In the 1970s it was shown that humans share 98.7 percent of their genes with the great apes--that in fact genetically we are more closely related to chimpanzees than chimpanzees are to gorillas. And most recently the entire human genome has been mapped--we now know where each of the genes are located on the DNA strands that make up our chromosomes. In Human Origins: What Bones and Genomes Tell Us about Ourselves, two of the worlds 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.
Ian Tattersall takes us deep into the fossil record to uncover what made humans so special. Surveying a vast field from initial bipedality to language and intelligence, Tattersall argues that Homo sapiens acquired a winning combination of traits that was not the result of long term evolutionary refinement. Instead it emerged quickly, shocking their world and changing it forever.