Blog five: important traits

One of the most important traits that can teach us about modern human biology is bipedalism.  Australopithecus africanus had a shortened, bowl-shaped pelvis, as well as leg and foot bones similar to modern day humans that allow us to walk upright on two legs.  This is an important difference from other primates who have longer pelvises more suited for quadrupedal locomotion.  Bipedalism is an important trait because it gave us the ability to see longer distances, therefore making finding food and avoiding predators easier.  Studying this is very important for anthropologists to know when early humans gained the ability to walk on two feet.  While bipedalism is something most humans take for granted as we learn to walk upright early in life, this was a very important step in early hominin evolution.  Bipedalism also had some disadvantages in that it made it harder to climb trees and live in an arboreal habitat.  However, there must have been more advantages than disadvantages since our species was able to survive.

The teeth of early hominins are another important trait that can tell anthropologists a lot about modern human biology.  Teeth are often reflective of the diet of the species.  By looking at the teeth, you can tell if an animal is more adapted to be an herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore.  Humans and early hominins have a variety of shapes and sizes which are perfect for our varied diets.  Studying the teeth of early hominins can tell anthropologists about what different species ate and can see where our diets diverged from other primates.  It also shows how teeth have evolved in species over time, and how quickly traits like teeth can evolve.  Our dental structure is one of the biggest differences between humans and modern day apes.

Brain size is another important trait that anthropologists can learn a lot from.  Large brain size is one of the biggest differences between modern humans and earlier hominin species.  Our larger brain size has allowed humans to process and store a lot of information.  This is helpful for early survival when encountering new habitats.  Although early hominins were able to walk upright and use tools, it is the larger brain size that allowed humans to start interacting with our environment in increasingly complicated ways.  More complex tools, forming more complicated social structures, and developing culture are all important parts of modern human society that is only possible due to our large brain size.

All of these traits are very important markers in hominin development and were crucial steps in the evolution of early hominins.  These are all things that are very important traits in modern humans as well.  By learning about our ancestors and studying the fossils of their skeletons, we can learn a lot about how modern humans got to be who we are.  We cannot move forward without knowing where we’ve been.  Knowing about the evolution of our species and closely related species we are able to better understand our species and how we work.

4 thoughts on “Blog five: important traits

  1. Hey! I really enjoyed reading your blog. I also found that bipedalism was really interesting to read about and it was definitely the first hominin trait that really struck my attention! We can definitely learn a lot about ourselves as humans by closely examining the trait of bipedalism. Like you mentioned, brain size is also a really important trait. I was shocked to learn that bipedalism and brain size of humans are directly related.

    I also wrote about teeth in my own blog post. It’s interesting that teeth can tell a lot about what a species eats. I think learning about another species’ diet is really fascinating! I also think it’s really cool that teeth can be used to determine how old the hominin was at the time of their death.

  2. I agree that one of the most important traits that can teach us about modern biology is bipedalism. I also wrote about it in my reflection. I also took note on how because we walk on two legs humans can see longer distance and get places faster, which made survival easier. The other hominin I wrote about was also teeth. It can definitely tell anthropologist a lot about modern human biology and give insight into past environments. I did not take notice though to the fact that our dental structure is one of the bigger differences between humans and modern apes. In the back of my mind I knew this but reading it on your post made me actually realize this difference. Brain size was something that I noted but did not write about.

  3. Hi Margaret,
    It was interesting to read your assessment of bipedalism and how the pelvis changes relate to locomotion on land. It seems that walking on the ground might have opened these creatures up to new predators who could not reach them in the trees. I do agree that their diet certainly by having access to food sources on the ground. As you say, their teeth would have evolved to this new environmental diet. I agree that our canine teeth probably do reflect what new food became available especially considering our omnivore classification. You noted that our brain size is one of the biggest differences between us and our hominin ancestors and I believe this probably was the time we became capable of better decision making including the use of tools. All of these traits do follow the fossil record and help us understand who we are.
    -Jaclyn Kyko

  4. It’s amazing to think of the early hominins, of all traits that they shared with our ancestors. We’re so used to being a sort of adnomily as hairless, bipedal apes. A species that seems set apart from the others for our complex culture and unique traits. What if all of the other hominin species didn’t go extinct? How would we interact with a species so similar to us? It’s also sobering to think that our species very well could have perished like our hominin relatives. With so many shared traits that couldn’t prevent evolutionary elimination, what set us apart from the others? Our brain is very important to us and has helped us create societies and bend the environment to our will. If being intelligent is so great, why are we the only species at this level? And how much did it help us in the past when the differences between our intelligence and our relatives was smaller?

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