Category Archives: human evolution

Lucy may have died by falling out of a tree

“Lucy” is the skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis female, dated at 3.18 million years old and discovered by Donald Johanson’s team in 1971 in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia. Lucy has become famous because, with 40% of the skeleton recovered, all in one place, she gave a remarkably complete picture of what one of our ancestors […]

Natural selection reduces years of schooling among Americans

As I’ve often said, the question I’m always asked after my public lectures on evolution is this: “Are humans still evolving?” And my answer is always the same: “Yes, but the evidence we have for evolution occurring right now involves traits that aren’t that interesting.” When people ask that question, what they really want to know […]

Human evolution: a tangled bank

by Matthew Cobb Back in October, we looked at the discovery of anatomically modern human teeth in China, from 100,000 years ago. This was surprising because although archaeological evidence suggested that Homo sapiens first came out of Africa perhaps 125,000 years ago, it was thought that they hung around the Middle East, maybe venturing into […]

Human evolution in one handy gif

by Matthew Cobb Here’s the branching path from then to now, covering about 3.6 billion years (not to scale). Press the arrow to watch the gif. Some of the earlier bits are somewhat guesswork, but you get the idea. Evolution of humans — Science GIFs (@Learn_Things) January 7, 2016 JAC: Note that this animation is […]

We are not all Neanderthal: this is how science proceeds

by Matthew Cobb You may recall that back in October we reported the amazing discovery that, as I put it in the headline, “Neanderthal genes are everywhere“. Up until then, it had been thought that only those human populations outside of Africa carried Neanderthal genes, as a consequence of our ancestors having mated with our […]

Darwin’s primate tree

by Matthew Cobb This sketch of human origins was made by Darwin in 1868, and reflects the knowledge of the time. Humans are on the left, with our closest relatives, gorillas and chimps, grouped together. Darwin seems to mistakenly suggest that the gibbons (Hylobatus) are more closely related to the other apes – gorillas, chimps […]

Punctilious scientists correct Google Doodle, possibly incorrectly

I wrote yesterday about the “Lucy” Google Doodle, which looked like this: Some of my colleagues didn’t like that Doodle, and fixed it. They couldn’t help it . . .: Actually, I’m not sure this is scientifically accurate, as it shows Lucy (middle figure; A. afarensis) as a lineage that split off from modern humans […]

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Lucy

Today’s Google Doodle is a good one for evolutionary biologists, for it celebrates “Lucy,” the largely-complete skeletal specimen of Australopithecus afarensis found 41 years ago today by Donald Johansen and his team in Ethiopia. (The story of how they found her is in chapter 8 of WEIT.)  Lucy is famous for the “intermediacy” of her skeleton, which […]

Why we should be excited by 100,000 year old human teeth from China

by Matthew Cobb I told you all the other day – discoveries in recent human evolution are appearing at an astonishing pace. I just gave my final lecture of the year to the students on the first year Genes, Evolution and Development course at the University of Manchester; last night, at around 23:30, I had […]

Neanderthal genes are everywhere

by Matthew Cobb [EDIT: IN JANUARY 2016, KEY POINTS OF THE STUDY DESCRIBED BELOW WERE DISCOVERED TO BE UNTRUE. Read this to see why.] As regular readers will know, some of the most astonishing discoveries in the whole of science that have occurred over the last few years have been with regard to our understanding of recent human evolution. […]