Human Evolution 2007 Information about the examination by guym13


									                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

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
                       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

                                                          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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