Paleoenvironments and Hominin Evolution

Living reference work entry

Abstract

Environmental stimuli have influenced the evolution of hominins and other mammals at the levels of ontogeny, organismal adaptation, and speciation. The review refers to some agreement which has emerged – as well as to persistent debates – on the issue of environmental linkages to hominin adaptation. Current hypotheses which link physical change, adaptation, and speciation in general and in hominins in particular are discussed (including hypotheses on the role of ecological specialization and generalization, the coordinated stasis and variability selection hypotheses, habitat theory, and the turnover pulse hypothesis). Some persistent debates are revisited (such as on the current status of the savanna hypothesis and on whether or not there was mammalian species’ turnover in the Turkana Basin during the Plio-Pleistocene). The relation of hominin evolution to the recent finding of several turnover pulses coincident with global cooling trends in the 10 Ma to recent record of all African larger mammals is considered. One example of hypotheses which address issues of environmental stimuli of ontogenetic evolution is the heterochrony pulse hypothesis: the generative properties shared among lineages can result not only in coherence of morphological changes but also in a strongly nonrandom timing of heterochrony events, as diverse lineages respond in parallel by similar kinds of heterochrony to the same environmental changes. The discussion includes cases in hominins and other mammals of evolutionary increase in body size by prolongation of growth and attendant “shuffling” of body proportions including relative increase in brain volume, namely, encephalization.

Keywords

Late Miocene Body Proportion Okavango Delta Allopatric Speciation Early Hominins 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeophysicsYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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