Genetics

CLOCK gene may hold answers to human brain evolution

Scientists have long sought to unravel the molecular mysteries that make the human brain special: What processes drove its evolution through the millennia? Which genes are critical to cognitive development?

Psychology & Psychiatry

Memory limits give rise to open-ended language abilities

A hallmark of human language is our ability to produce and understand an infinite number of different sentences. This unique open-ended productivity is normally explained in terms of "structural reuse"; sentences are constructed ...

Health

Can more fiber restore microbiome diversity?

Scientists are pushing to restore human health in Western countries by changing our diet to restore the microbial species lost over the evolution of Western diet. In a Commentary published April 11 in Trends in Endocrinology ...

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Human evolution

Human evolution, or anthropogenesis, is the part of biological evolution concerning the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species from other hominins, great apes and placental mammals. It is the subject of a broad scientific inquiry that seeks to understand and describe how this change occurred. The study of human evolution encompasses many scientific disciplines, most notably physical anthropology, primatology, archaeology, linguistics and genetics.

The term "human", in the context of human evolution, refers to the genus Homo, but studies of human evolution usually include other hominins, such as the Australopithecines. The Homo genus diverged from the Australopithecines about 2 million years ago in Africa. Scientists have estimated that humans branched off from their common ancestor with chimpanzees—the only other living homininis—about 5–7 million years ago. Several species of Homo evolved that are now extinct. These include Homo erectus, which inhabited Asia, and Homo neanderthalensis, which inhabited Europe.

Archaic Homo sapiens evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. The dominant view among scientists is the recent African origin of modern humans (RAO) that H. sapiens evolved in Africa and spread across the globe, replacing populations of H. erectus and H. neanderthalensis. Scientists supporting the alternative hypothesis on the multiregional evolution (ME) view modern humans as having evolved as a single, widespread population from existing Homo species, particularly H. erectus. The fossil evidence is insufficient to resolve this vigorous debate,. Studies of haplogroups in Y-chromosomal DNA and mitochondrial DNA have largely supported a recent African origin, while some researchers argue that evidence from nuclear genes supports a multiregional origin.

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