My colleague, amazingfacts, put together an intriguing list of our questions about the species, Homo sapiens sapiens, from how we became what we see today as ‘modern man’ to where will we eventually end up when our 2 million years of evolutionary history (that being the average life span of a species on the planet Earth) expires. Enjoy.
Humans are unique among life on this planet, and much remains a mystery as to how we evolved. What steps came first? Why did we evolve this way and not that direction? Why are we the only human species left? What other paths might we have gone down in our evolution? And what directions might we go from here?
Where do modern humans come from?
The most bitterly debated question in the discipline of human evolution is likely over where modern humans evolved. The out-of-Africa hypothesis maintains that modern humans evolved relatively recently in Africa and then spread around the world, replacing existing populations of archaic humans. The multiregional hypothesis contends that modern humans evolved over a broad area from archaic humans, with populations in different regions mating with their neighbors to share traits, resulting in the evolution of modern humans. The out-of-Africa hypothesis currently holds the lead, but proponents of the multiregional hypothesis remain strong in their views.
Who was the first hominid?
Scientists are uncovering more and more ancient hominids all the time — here meaning bipeds including humans, our direct ancestors and closest relatives. They strive to find the earliest one, to help answer that most fundamental question in human evolution — what adaptations made us human, and in what order did they happen?
Why did modern humanity expand past Africa about 50,000 years ago?
Roughly 50,000 years ago, modern humans expanded out of Africa, spreading rapidly across most of the world’s lands to colonize all continents except Antarctica, reaching even the most remote Pacific islands. A number of scientists conjecture this migration was linked with a mutation that transformed our brains, leading to our modern, complex use of language and enabling more sophisticated tools, art and societies. The more popular view suggests hints of such modern behavior existed long before this exodus, and that humanity instead had crossed a threshold in terms of population size in Africa that made such a revolution possible.