Introduction The American Museum of Natural History’s Spitzer Hall Of Human Origins is an Archeological depiction of the evolution of hominids. The “Meet Your Relatives” portion of the exhibit displays the fossils and artifacts of early hominids and their development. Archaeological definition refers to hominids as being a part of a family which includes apes, gorillas, chimps along with humans and their fossils. After a close look at the skeletal structure of the fossil on exhibition, it is evident that differences exist between the chimpanzee,(Pan troglodytes), human(homo sapien)and neanderthal(Homo neanderthalensis). By contrast there are also some similarities between the fossils. Darwin’s theory of evolution equates the similarities to the process of natural selection. An overview of Darwin’s theory will seek to understand how and why hominids have evolved.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution According to Darwin’s Theory of evolution species have evolved from earlier species. As a result of natural selection, “individuals tend to pass on heritable features that enable them to cope better with their environment to future generations. Over time, populations of individuals will exhibit more of the better-adapted features”(Spitzer Hall of Human Origins Glossary, AMNH, 2018). In other words, natural selection is based on the species ability to adapt and reproduce.
Archaeological research suggests that there was diversity among the hominids. It is believed that “humans are the only remaining descendants of a once-varied family of primates called Hominidae. In different places over the past six or seven million years, groups of early hominids adapted to their habitats and many distinct species emerged”(Our Family Tree, AMNH,2018). At some point in time a particular group of hominids were more susceptible to harmful traits that hindered their survival.
Others adapted traits that helped them to evolve on a biological level. Biological Distinctions and Similarities Between the Hominid and the Homo SapienFossil Evidence Documents Biological Differences:The biological differences and findings of an extinct hominid skeleton in relation to the homo sapien skeleton shows that species changes overtime. The skeletal build is different from the modern human skeleton( Homo sapien) which stands upright, while the hominid skeleton (Homo neanderthalensis) is incapable of standing erect as the skeletal structure show bent femur bones(‘Meet the Relatives,”AMNH,2018).
In terms of height, the homo neanderthalensis appears shorter than the modern human depicted. The size and shape of the high brain case in the human skull differs, from the lower braincase in the hominid skull. The human chest is rounded barrel and the homo neanderthalensis has a funnel shaped chest. The human finger is narrow while the hominid finger is robust(‘Meet the Relatives,”AMNH, 2018). Fossil Evidence Reveals Similarities:Fossil evidence also reveals that similarities exists between the Homo sapien and the hominid. Both hominids and homo sapien have similar brains however, homo sapiens have larger brains.
The pelvis is similar short and wide on both the homo sapien and the hominid which allows stability and support when standing and moving. The hominid have long arms and fingers that grabs. Likewise the homo sapien. The Laetoli hominid footprint on exhibit reflects that hominids were bipedal and walked on two legs, similar to homo sapien. Habitat Pressure and ExtinctionHabitat PressuresThe likely hood of a species survival depends on traits passed on to the next generation. However environmental factors also played a role in the extinction of the early hominid. All species rely on their environment for survival , if there is a change in the environment the species dies. Research attributes habitat pressures and variations in the earth temperatures as a possible cause for the extinction.
Hominid- Homo Sapien Development As it Pertains To Darwin’s TheoryThe exhibits “Tree of life or Phylogenetic tree is an evolutionary history of extinct species and living species. “Generations of scientists have created tree-of-life diagrams by studying and comparing the physical features of different species”(“Tree of Life,”AMNH, 2018). In theory natural selection revealed that similarities in the hominid species determined their relation to homo sapiens. Moreover, today’s genetic research “DNA or analyzing the fossil record–have found that Darwin’s work is fundamental to their own” (Evolution Today, AMNH,2018).The process of evolution has been broken down into three phases, natural selection, genetic drift and mutation.
Natural selection reveals that traits are passed on from earlier species for survival. Genetic evidence indicates that as DNA is inherited, it has the ability to mutate as it is passed on the next generation. Overtime “mutation may or may not impact the ability to survive”( Spitzer Hall of Human Origins Glossary, AMNH,2018). In terms of genetic drift, “gene and traits will increase in abundance over generation by chance”(Spitzer Hall of Human Origins Glossary, AMNH,2018). which is primarily found in small populations. All these factors are used in determining how evolution happened.