(ORDO NEWS) — South Korean and European climatologists have discovered the first evidence that changes in the nature of the Earth‘s orbital movement directly influenced the pace and direction of the evolution of the genus Homo for at least two million years. This was announced on Wednesday by the press service of the South Korean Institute for Basic Research (IBS).
“Our ancestors and other species of the genus Homo were adapted to life in very different conditions, but all populations of ancient hominins reacted in the same way to those climate changes that were associated with changes in the nature of the rotation and movement of the Earth in its orbit.
This suggests that over the past two million years, the evolution of the genus Homo has been driven by these orbital cycles,” said IBS professor Axel Timmermann, quoted by the institute’s press service.
Anthropologists have long believed that climate change has been one of the main drivers of primate evolution.
For example, three million years ago, the climate of Africa became more arid and hot, which forced the Australopithecus and the alleged ancestors of the genus Homo to move from life on the branches of trees to living in the savannas, African forest-steppes.
Professor Timmermann and his colleagues became interested in how climate influenced the evolution of our immediate ancestors and other members of the Homo genus who lived in their immediate vicinity over the past two million years. To answer this question, scientists created an ultra-detailed computer model that reproduced the climate of the Ice Age as accurately as possible.
Climate and people
The calculations carried out by scientists, on the one hand, confirmed the key role of climate in the evolution of the genus Homo, on the other hand, they revealed another interesting trend.
As Professor Timmermann and his colleagues discovered, many events in the history of the evolution of at least three types of ancient people – Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals and Heidelberg people – were associated with the so-called orbital cycles of the Earth.
So scientists call cyclic changes in the angle of inclination of the Earth’s axis of rotation, the elongation of its orbit and the average distance between the star and our planet, the length of which is several tens or hundreds of thousands of years.
They significantly change the amount of heat that the surface of the planet receives. These changes, according to the calculations of Professor Timmermann and his colleagues, played a key role in the evolution of the genus Homo for at least 2 million years.
In particular, approximately 680-580 thousand years ago, the Earth’s axis was unusually strongly inclined with respect to the plane of its orbit, as a result of which the climate in the temperate and subpolar latitudes of the northern hemisphere became much milder and warmer than it was before.
This created ideal conditions for the migration of one of the African groups of Heidelberg people to Eurasia, where Neanderthals and Denisovans subsequently arose as a result of a gradual shift in the Earth’s axis of rotation and a cooling of the climate.
As climatologists suggest, the subsequent study of how orbital cycles influenced climate and human evolution will help their fellow anthropologists understand in which regions of the planet the remains of other representatives of the genus Homo may lie, as well as uncover the history of possible interactions between different types of ancient people.
Understanding this will dramatically enrich our understanding of the history of human evolution, the scientists concluded.
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