African Climate and Human Evolution

Summary

Major junctures in human evolution near 2.8 and 1.8 million years ago (panel a) were coincident with the onset and maximum expansion of savannah grasslands. Carbon isotopic analyses of plant wax molecules in Gulf of Aden sediment cores (panel d) and isotopic analyses of East African soil carbonates (panel e) document the development of open grasslands after 1.8 Ma, when the proportion of grass-eating bovids (antelopes) also increased (panel F). Homo erectus was the first hominin to inhabit and exploit such open environments. deMenocal, P.B., 2011. Climate and Human Evolution, Science, 331, pp. 540-543. (PDF)