Author: Head of the Anthropology Department Ian Tattersall
Publisher: Westview Press
Category: Social Science
Challenging prevailing notions of the evolution of humans, this fascinating study of a controversial topic posits that the human evolutionary tree actually contained many branches, and that some of these groups may have exterminated others. 10,000 first printing.
Humans domesticated dogs soon after Neanderthals began to disappear. This alliance between two predator species, Pat Shipman hypothesizes, made possible unprecedented success in hunting large Ice Age mammals—a distinct and ultimately decisive advantage for human invaders at a time when climate change made both humans and Neanderthals vulnerable.
An Encyclopedia of Species that Have Disappeared during Human History
Author: Ross Piper
Everyone is familiar with the dodo and the wooly mammoth, but how many people have heard of the scimitar cat and the Falkland Island fox? Extinct Animals portrays over 60 remarkable animals that have been lost forever during the relatively recent geological past. Each entry provides a concise discussion of the history of the animal—how and where it lived, and how it became extinct—as well as the scientific discovery and analysis of the creature. In addition, this work examines what led to extinction—from the role of cyclical swings in the Earth's climate to the spread of humans and their activities. Many scientists believe that we are in the middle of a mass extinction right now, caused by the human undermining of the earth's complex systems that support life. Understanding what caused the extinction of animals in the past may help us understand and prevent the extinction of species in the future. Extinct Animals examines the biology and history of some of the most interesting creatures that have ever lived, including: The American Terror Bird, which probably became extinct over 1 million years ago, who were massive predators, some of which were almost 10 feet tall; the Rocky Mountain Locust, last seen in 1902, formed the most immense animal aggregations ever known, with swarms estimated to include over 10 trillion insects; the Giant Ground Sloth, which was as large as an elephant; and the Neandertals, the first Europeans, which co-existed with prehistoric Homo sapiens. Extinct Animals includes illustrations—many created for the work—that help the reader visualize the extinct creature, and each entry concludes with a list of resources for those who wish to do further research.
“Simultaneously sobering and exhilarating, Michael Tennesen’s wide-ranging survey of disasters highlights both life’s fragility and its metamorphosing persistence” (Booklist) and describes what life on earth could look like after the next mass extinction. A growing number of scientists agree we are headed toward a mass extinction, perhaps in as little as 300 years. Already there have been five mass extinctions in the last 600 million years, including the Cretaceous Extinction, during which an asteroid knocked out the dinosaurs. Though these events were initially destructive, they were also prime movers of evolutionary change in nature. And we can see some of the warning signs of another extinction event coming, as our oceans lose both fish and oxygen, and our lands lose both predators and prey. In The Next Species, Michael Tennesen questions what life might be like after it happens. In thoughtful, provocative ways, Tennesen discusses the future of nature and whether humans will make it through the bottleneck of extinction. Could life suddenly get very big as it did before the arrival of humans? Could the conquest of Mars lead to another form of human? Could we upload our minds into a computer and live in a virtual reality? How would we recognize the next humans? Are they with us now? Tennesen delves into the history of the planet and travels to rainforests, canyons, craters, and caves all over the world to explore the potential winners and losers of the next era of evolution. His predictions, based on reports and interviews with top scientists, have vital implications for life on earth today. The Next Species is “an engrossing history of life, the dismal changes wrought by man, and a forecast of life after the sixth mass extinction” (Kirkus Reviews).
Taking an ecological approach to our evolution, Clive Finlayson considers the origins of modern humans within the context of a drying climate and changing landscapes. Finlayson argues that environmental change, particularly availability of water, played a critical role in shaping the direction of human evolution, contributing to our spread and success. He argues that our ancestors carved a niche for themselves by leaving the forest and forcing their way into a long-established community of carnivores in a tropical savannah as climate changes opened up the landscape. They took their chance at high noon, when most other predators were asleep. Adapting to this new lifestyle by shedding their hair and developing an active sweating system to keep cool, being close to fresh water was vital. As the climate dried, our ancestors, already bipedal, became taller and slimmer, more adept at travelling farther in search of water. The challenges of seeking water in a drying landscape moulded the minds and bodies of early humans, and directed their migrations and eventual settlements. In this fresh and provocative view of a seven-million-year evolutionary journey, Finlayson demonstrates the radical implications for the interpretation of fossils and technologies and shows that understanding humans within an ecological context provides insights into the emergence and spread of Homo sapiens sapiens worldwide.
This is a readable, informative and up-to-date account of the patterns and controls on biodiversity. The author describes major trends in species richness, along with uncertainties in current knowledge. The various possible explanations for past and present species patterns are discussed and explained in an even-handed and accessible way. The implications of global climate change and habitat loss are considered, along with current strategies for preserving what we have. This book examines the state of current understanding of species richness patterns and their explanations. As well as the present day world, it deals with diversification and extinction, in the conservation of species richness, and the difficulties of assessing how many species remain to be discovered. The scientifically compelling subject of vegetation-climate interaction is considered in depth. Written in an accessible style, the author offers an up-to-date, rigorous and yet eminently comprehensible overview of the ecology and biogeography of species richness. He departs from the often heavy approach of earlier texts, without sacrificing rigor and depth of information and analysis. Prefacing with the aims of the book, Chapter 1 opens with an explanation of latitudinal gradients, including a description of major features of the striking gradients in species richness, exceptions to the rule, explanations, major theories and field and experimental tests. The following chapter plumbs the depth of time, including the nature of the fossil record, broad timescale diversity patterns, ecosystem changes during mass extinctions and glaciations and their influence on species richness. Chapters 3 and 4 consider hotspots and local scale patterns in species richness while Chapter 5 looks at the limitations and uncertainties on current estimates of richness, the last frontiers of species diversity and the process of identifying new life forms. The last three chapters cover humans and extinctions in history and prehistory, current habitat and global change, including the greenhouse effect, and the race to preserve what we still have, including parks, gene banks and laws.
50,000 years ago – merely a blip in evolutionary time – our Homo sapiens ancestors were competing for existence with several other human species, just as their own precursors had been doing for millions of years. Yet something about our species separated it from the pack, and led to its survival while the rest became extinct. So just what was it that allowed Homo sapiens to become Masters of the Planet? Curator Emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History, 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.
This humorous account of human evolution, from the beginnings of bipedalism through the Upper Paleolithic, is set in the context of a cookbook, with recipes and cartoons to match the unfolding stories. Each chapter discusses a particular milestone or event in human development, and a dash of prehistory, a sprinkling of recipes, and a generous helping of humor painlessly lighten the professorial instruction. From leading us to understand the first tool makers to showing us how to prepare a Neanderthal dinner party at the site of the authors' most recent excavations in Pech de l'Aze in France's Dordogne Valley near the town of Sarlat, this book presents archaeology as never before.
Bird catching, Cave Art, and the Cognitive Revolution
Author: Clive Finlayson
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Category: Social Science
Since the late 1980s the dominant theory of human origins has been that a 'cognitive revolution' (C.50,000 years ago) led to the advent of our species, Homo sapiens. As a result of this revolution our species spread and eventually replaced all existing archaic Homo species, ultimately leading to the superiority of modern humans. Or so we thought. As Clive Finlayson explains, the latest advances in genetics prove that there was significant interbreeding between Modern Humans and the Neanderthals. All non-Africans today carry some Neanderthal genes. We have also discovered aspects of Neanderthal behaviour that indicate that they were not cognitively inferior to modern humans, as we once thought, and in fact had their own rituals and art. Finlayson, who is at the forefront of this research, recounts the discoveries of his team, providing evidence that Neanderthals caught birds of prey, and used their feathers for symbolic purposes. There is also evidence that Neanderthals practised other forms of art, as the recently discovered engravings in Gorham's Cave Gibraltar indicate. Linking all the recent evidence, The Smart Neanderthal casts a new light on the Neanderthals and the 'Cognitive Revolution'. Finlayson argues that there was no revolution and, instead, modern behaviour arose gradually and independently among different populations of Modern Humans and Neanderthals. Some practices were even adopted by Modern Humans from the Neanderthals. Finlayson overturns classic narratives of human origins, and raises important questions about who we really are.