Some good news about what’s ahead
in the very long run! . . .
by Daily Mail Reporter, 11/20/11
Climate change over the past two million years has boosted human evolution by forcing us to adapt to changing conditions and allowing us to migrate to new areas. Researchers found that far from hindering our development, periods when the earth is either cooling or warming up have actually been highly beneficial. As well as prompting us to migrate, changes in climate have also forced humans to evolve culturally by encouraging us to learn to work together.
Far from hindering human development scientists now believe periods of climate change helped us evolve. Experts from the National History Museum and Cambridge University have identified five key time periods when shifts in global climate have resulted in accelerated social and genetic evolution.
The first began around two million years ago when a prolonged dry period caused forests to disappear leading to the emergence of Homo erectus – an early human adapted to running and hunting on the grassy plains.
The next major development came during the ice age which began 450,000 years ago during which scientists believe human beings were split into three separate groups. European humans evolved into Neanderthals while Asian humans evolved into Denisovans.
Those remaining on the African subcontinent evolved into modern human beings but this group had to wait until around 60,000 years ago when a prolonged warm spell allowed them to spread north. Then a sustained cold period between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago caused further changes as the freezing temperatures caused a 330ft drop in sea levels allowing humans to cross the Bering land bridge into North America.
Wild fluctuations in climate between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago prompted another period of change by forcing humans to develop agricultural techniques which enabled them to stabilise food supplies.
Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum and author of The Origin of Our Species told the Sunday Times: ‘Climate change has been a major player in our evolution.’ The Royal Society is holding a conference this week where details of recent research will be released. The scientists are keen to point out they are not suggesting that modern global warming is beneficial. Rhiannon Stevens of Cambridge University who is co-organising the conference told the newspaper: ‘What intrigues them is the growing evidence that human evolution and climate change have been inextricably linked for hundreds of thousands of years.’