Excavating at Olduvai to find whether climate changes 2 million years ago may have contributed to human evolution

Excavating a two-million-year-old site at Olduvai to find whether climate changes may have contributed to early human evolution.
Olduvai Gorge is a ravine on the edge of the Serengeti Plain, Tanzania, East Africa. It is home to some of the world’s most important fossil hominins. Archeological finds include stone tools and skeletal remains of Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus, as well as bones of wild animals since extinct. Liverpool University scientists are investigating the chemical composition of carbonate rocks that lie beneath the surfaces where early human fossils have been found. The data will help geologists, paleoanthropologists and archaeologists understand how environmental pressures could have influenced the development of human ancestors and their use of the land.
Professor Ian Stanistreet said that research already suggests that environmental changes, such as from very dry conditions to very wet, were more extreme and took place more frequently than previously thought. It is unclear how this might have contributed to human evolution but evidence indicates that an ability to cope with hostile, rapidly-changing environments may have characterized and shaped the development of the human race.
The team is studying elements in the mineral calcium carbonate which were deposited in the mud and soil around and in a lake between 2 and 1.7 million years ago. Carbonates formed in the semi-arid environment through evaporation and concentration of soil and lake water. The chemical composition of calcium carbonate mirrors the chemical composition of the water from which it came. 

Tags: Homo erectus, Homo habilis, climate change

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Recent studies have suggested that humankind is still rapidly evolving; the presumption that because we are not under environmental stress (at the moment) does not mean we are not under selective pressure.

Indeed, who among us would not prefer to marry (and parent our children by) a mate that we find highly attractive and intelligent? As long as those preferences are predominant or at least very common in mate selection, and the traits being preferred are at least in part genetically determined, there is selective pressure in the human species selecting for those traits - evolution towards their more common expression.

Given enough generations, we as a species are going to change as a result of this selective pressure. Those traits being selected against may still exist in the genome, but will become less predominant until they finally die out and the genes coding for them become extinct. At that point, it can be truly said that we have evolved - even in the absence of environmental stressors.

Remember that even Darwin bristled at the use of the phrase "survival of the fittest." He never said any such thing (the phrase was invented by a journalist), but what he said, over and over, was survival of the most reproductively successful. The peacock being the obvious example of the latter being more accurate a description of evolution than the former. Genghis Khan allegedly had over a thousand children by the hundreds of women in his harem - and now something like 16% of the Mongolian population can trace ancestry to him. Was he that much more fit than the rest of the Mongols of his time? I don't think so. He was just more reproductively successful.

Scott B.
Evolution, in its simplest definition, is the change over time. in the frequency of a gene, or genes, within a population's gene pool. By that definition we are constantly evolving even if we can't see it in the phenotype.
I would think @Gavin Sullivan.. "that our technical develoment has allowed us to partially reduse those selective pressures on our evolution" I would agree with that statement in that without the technical development our evolution would probably elvolving in a completly different direction..would there be less people, more people? I often wonder having the information concerning nature developments have we lost the ability to adapt as well as our ancestors did in the past? I dont know as much about this as I would like to so any comments to this are appreciated.

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