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Human Evolution

How did modern humans evolve from earlier forms of life?

Many people imagine that humans evolved from monkeys, and that evolution occurs in some kind of linear progress, like the famous “March of progress” image.

But this is all incorrect.

march-of-progress misleading figure

Humans did not evolve from monkeys. Or apes.

In fact, humans, monkeys, and apes all exist today!

Rather, humans, monkeys and apes all have evolved from earlier forms of life – which were primates.

This is better visualized as a branching tree, with many branches being cut off (becoming extinct.)

How Human Evolution Really Works

Ape-Family-tree A family Portrait pasttime org episode-5-throwing-in-human-evolution
Image from http://www.pasttime.org/2013/08/episode-5-throwing-in-human-evolution/
By Adam Pritchard and Matt Borths, Stony Brook University, NY

A peer-reviewed paper: Genetic variation, classification and ‘race’

New genetic data has enabled scientists to re-examine the relationship between human genetic variation and ‘race’. We review the results of genetic analyses that show that human genetic variation is geographically structured, in accord with historical patterns of gene flow and genetic drift. Analysis of many loci now yields reasonably accurate estimates of genetic similarity among individuals, rather than populations.

Clustering of individuals is correlated with geographic origin or ancestry. These clusters are also correlated with some traditional concepts of race, but the correlations are imperfect because genetic variation tends to be distributed in a continuous, overlapping fashion among populations. Therefore, ancestry, or even race, may in some cases prove useful in the biomedical setting, but direct assessment of disease-related genetic variation will ultimately yield more accurate and beneficial information.

PrimateEvolution coloring page

 

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