Human Evolution 2007 Information about the examination This summer the examination will be in Questions in the examination are the form of one question to be set on intended to ensure that you: each of the 6 topics I will describe (see a. demonstrate an understanding of handout). the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary nature of the study The rubric for the examination will of human evolution. require you to answer two questions in b. demonstrate a critical awareness of the issues involved in the study of 2 hours. There will not be any restriction human evolution on choice. c. also, depending on the question chosen, demonstrate an understanding of how one of the defining characteristics of modern humans - spoken language - can be studied in a comparative context. Human Evolution 2007 Information about the examination IMPORTANT: As per the course, the following conventions are used for this information and in the examination questions themselves: Hominoid = All the Apes, both living and fossil. NB this includes the hominids and hominins as well. Hominid = Living African Apes, Humans and their fossil relatives. Hominin = Bipedal Apes, i.e. humans and their fossil relatives, including all the australopithecines and also earlier fossils such as Sahelanthropus, Orrorin and Ardipithecus. Human Evolution 2007 Examination pointers When answering questions you need keep clear in your own mind which taxonomic level you are considering. To try and make this clear – think about the different points which would need to be included in this example question as the taxonomic level is changed: “Critically discuss the role of environmental change in hominoid evolution” “Critically discuss the role of environmental change in hominid evolution” “Critically discuss the role of environmental change in hominin evolution” Human Evolution 2007 Examination pointers “Critically discuss the role of environmental change in hominoid evolution” This is the largest taxonomic grouping and therefore will need to include the widest range of information. A rough summary of what you would need to cover is given in these two diagrams from Lewin & Foley (2004), possibly just treating the monkeys as competition. Detail is always good, but when dealing with a question which requires you to cover a broad range of information you need to be sure to place the detail in its overall context. Human Evolution 2007 Examination pointers “Critically discuss the role of environmental change in hominid evolution” Although you might still want to sketch in some of the background, here you should focus on the African apes, our own lineage plus the general australopithecine radiation. An obvious question lurking in here would be about the environmental conditions which gave rise to bipedalism – so one point you would need to cover in some detail would be the changes in forest cover at the end of the Miocene. But because this question is about hominids you would also need to think about those who stayed as forest dwellers. Lewin & Foley (2004) Figure 9.16: Foraging for food resources would take place increasingly between patches rather than between them (as shown by the dotted lines). The increased daily travel probably produced selection pressure for more efficient terrestrial locomotion. Human Evolution 2007 Examination pointers “Critically discuss the role of environmental change in hominin evolution” Here you might be best advised to decide that you are going to give a few examples in detail but you would (ideally) need to show that you understood there were other topics to cover. You might select from: Bipedalism – but now just concentrating on hominins & considering the further changes which led to the adaptation to long-distance travel shown in later Homo, remembering that this must be given as an answer about environmental change. Changes in seasonality leading to more opportunistic foraging. Adaptations – or not – to higher latitudes after hominins left Africa The shift to staying in colder areas – e.g. Neanderthals in Europe The effect on modern humans of the end of the last Ice Age and the need to switch from big-game hunting on the open Mammoth Steppe to life in increasingly temperate forests. Origins of farming – this relies on arguing for the environmental explanation for the shift to cultivation of cereals at Tell Abu Hureyra as being typical. Human Evolution 2007 Using the information on the website How to use information from previous years to help you: In 2005 the second topic was “The overall pattern of evolution in hominins” and the question in the exam was: Richard Potts’ has proposed that “variability selection” has been an important feature of hominin evolution in the Plio-Pleistocene in Africa. This idea is summarized in the diagram below. Critically discuss this proposal, paying attention to the extent to which it is supported by the fossil record for hominin evolution. Could this idea of variability selection also be applied more generally within hominin evolution? Climatic fluctuations change landscape features over time, particularly in terms of the availability of water and tree cover. In the gene pool of hominin populations M represents the genetic basis for adaptations which offer competitive advantage in moist, highly vegetated settings; A represents the genetic basis for adaptations which offer competitive advantage in dry, open habitats whereas C represents the genetic basis for versatility. Human Evolution 2007 Using the information on the website Using information from previous years to help you: After noting down how you would tackle a question set in either 2005 or 2006 – check your ideas against the general feedback. For the example given I wrote: This clearly struck you as a difficult question, since very few people attempted it! The key to answering it well was to treat the proposal as quite a general one and then ask to what extent and when the fossil record shows an increasing number of generalist and fewer specialist species through time. The example here is set in Africa, and that needs to be taken into account in the answer, as does the period. Ideally the proposal should be discussed in terms of its overall likelihood with the tempo of change a key issue. A rather subtle point in the diagram is that the tempo is not regular and is more rapid at the point when there is the switch to “C” – i.e. to being variable. This model places climatic change as the main driver, and ideally that aspect should be examined critically. The second part of the question could be answered by continuing to think about climatic change, but as seen in higher latitudes as hominins expanded out of Africa. Alternatively, just taking the idea of what might select for an ability to be “variable” would be a good approach. Ideally, in both cases, especially when you consider more recent hominins, you should bring in behavioural and cultural adaptation as well as morphological change and adaptation. Human Evolution Topics for 2007 examination 1. Earlier hominins – this topic requires you to be able to place the early hominins (from the last common ancestor with chimpanzees at approximately 6-7Mya through the initial radiation of hominins up to about 3Mya) within the overall context of human evolution which will obviously include consideration of the unifying characteristic of hominins – bipedalism. Relevant lectures are 1 (The big picture); 2 (Fossils in context); 6 (The first hominins); 7 (Bipedalism) and 8 (The Australopithecine radiation). Examples, including some from previous papers (NB these have been modified to fit the conventions described) • Jonathon Kingdon (2003) has proposed that a critical stage in the evolution of bipedalism was the “ground ape”. Critically discuss this hypothesis. • A recent study of the skull of Sahelanthropus tchadensis (Zollikofer et al, 2005) has clarified that the position of the foramen magnum is compatible with bipedal locomotion. Briefly indicate what further fossil evidence is required to confirm that Sahelanthropus was a biped. Critically discuss the significance of firm evidence for bipedalism in a hominin dated to 7 million years ago. Describe the sort of bipedalism you would expect to see at this date, giving your reasons. • Sketch a phylogeny of our current understanding of human evolution from the split with other hominids. Critically discuss two currently controversial issues illustrated by your phylogeny. Human Evolution Topics for 2007 examination 2. Hominin evolution outside Africa – this covers the period from the earliest appearance of hominins outside Africa (in Dmanisi and Java – lecture 11) to the appearance, globally, of modern humans. Local evolution in Europe (lectures 12 & 13), including the origins, and, to a lesser extent, the fate of the Neanderthals would be included. The environmental background (Lecture 10) is obviously relevant, and lectures 1 & 2 will have given you general background information. Given that there will also be a question (see below) on the evolution of modern humans, you should be careful to answer the question set! Examples, including some from previous papers • A recent study of Neanderthal teeth implies that their growth was more rapid than that seen in modern humans and that maturity would have been reached by 15 years. Discuss the implications of this with respect to Neanderthals as a more specialized hominin than modern humans. • Outline what is known about the first expansion of hominins from Africa. In biogeographic terms what areas of the world should be priorities for further research into this expansion? Indicate the geological and taphonomic factors which you would take into account in drawing up a short-list of areas to investigate. Human Evolution Topics for 2007 examination 3. Evolution of modern humans - this topic will require you to integrate information from a number of areas, as the example questions show. Thus, you need to consider both fossil and genetic evidence for the origin and spread of our species (lecture 14) and you may also be asked to think about what might have happened at the two geographical extremes of the spread out of Africa. The 2nd seminar also concerned this topic. Example questions from previous papers • How has the analysis of genetic information from living humans (Homo sapiens) affected our interpretation of human evolution? What further genetic information would be most helpful in resolving the debate about modern human origins? • Critically discuss the “Out of Africa” hypothesis about modern human origins with reference to both fossil and genetic evidence. Human Evolution Topics for 2007 examination 4. Archaeology & Human Evolution – this topic will ask you to consider the evidence we have for behavioural evolution. Because this depends on the survival of material in the archaeological record, the focus is on the period since the production of the first stone tools. You could, however, also draw examples from more recent periods, such as the postglacial (the Mesolithic) or even the Neolithic. Relevant material came up in a number of lectures, and particularly in lectures 9 and 15 to 18. We also touched on this in the 1st seminar. Examples including some questions from previous papers • What does the study of archaeology add to our understanding of human evolution? Illustrate your answer with specific examples. • How can the study of stone tools increase our understanding of human evolution? Illustrate your answer with specific examples. • Compare and contrast what is known of major behavioural shifts and their consequences in human evolution. You should consider episodes such as the adoption of opportunistic foraging by early hominins, the middle to upper Palaeolithic “revolution” and the origin of farming in the current interglacial. Human Evolution Topics for 2007 examination 5. Comparative approaches to human language – from studying communication behaviour in other vertebrates, including birds and whales as well as primates, we can learn about the selection pressures on communication and also how social organisation and communication interact. Example questions from previous papers • Describe the selection pressures that appear to have produced advanced abilities to copy sounds in animals. How far may these have acted in hominids? • Discuss the possible effects of different social structures and ways of life on the evolution of abilities that are necessary for a vocal language? • What do alarm calls communicate? Is it reasonable to argue that some monkey calls refer to particular classes of predators? Human Evolution Topics for 2007 examination 6. Evolutionary anatomy of language – what we can tell from reconstructions based on fossils, together with selected comparative data of the evolution of the physical apparatus of speech. Example questions from previous papers Evaluate the anatomical evidence from which important steps in the evolution of human speech have been deduced. • Evaluate the fossil evidence for stages in the evolution in hominins of the ability to copy vocal sounds and to talk. What selective pressures may have been important in this?
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