Please answer the question in the following discussion. this is an anthropology discussion which talks about fossils.
Please address both parts of the prompt in your response.
1) Select a fossil related to human evolution and discuss what types of information scientists can learn from this particular fossil. Feel free to use the textbook, websites listed under 'more resources' in Unit 8, or something that you find elsewhere online.
2) As remains become fossilized, what factors influence our knowledge of the fossil record?
After writing your response for both of the questions please respond to the following responses:
Fossils can teach us so much about the past. Firstly, the book states, "Fossils provide an essential historical record for documenting and understanding the biological evolution of surviving and nonsurviving lineages." Next, fossils provide us with information on both geologic and chronological time. Finally, fossils in different geological settings can shed light on past environments and diets. This reveals important
contexts for understanding how past organisms evolved. All these things can be learned from human skeletons from the past, giving us a better understanding of how we came to be as we are today.
Another cool thing that can be done with human fossils is reconstruction through art and science. The books uses a Dimanisi boy to show this process on page 227. It may take up to four months but, through reconstruction we can learn what humans of the past looked like. Strips of clay are used to imitate muscles, more clay is applied like tissue and the exterior surface is molded, and details are made to make the hominid look real.
I chose to look at the Homo naledi fossils. This species shares the modern human genus Homo. I found this particular species and fossil set interesting because it gives us a more detailed window into the evolutionary process linking quadrupeds and bipeds. The Homo naledi has a very human like foot. In fact, the feet are the most human-like part of their skeleton. Scientists believe that the naledi was bipedal but that they also were arboreal. The other thing about the naledi that I found interesting is that it appears that they honored their dead. They hid the bodies of those who died. Perhaps to keep them from being eaten by scavengers? The idea of emotions is what creates empathy for other species, in my opinion and observation. Those species that we can see emotions, get more of our empathy than those who cannot show emotion in a way that we can readily observe. Thinking about the naledi working to preserve or protect the bodies of their loved ones is really eye opening. This is merely a hypothesis at this point though. I wonder if it is possible that they were just trying to easily distance themselves from the dead because the bodies may have made the living a target for predators. It will be interesting to see how the research plays out and what information they can glean from these fossils.
From the lecture, I found it thought provoking to learn that the fossils we have, are a rarity. They are a small representation of what existed. Many remains simply disappeared through the process of decomposition. As some of the remains became fossilized though, we are able to date them in relation to the age of the strata they are located in. They can be more specifically dated using carbon technology. Since my high school biology class a million years ago(or 20;), I have been amazed by the ability scientists have to date artifacts and fossils. Without our cultural technology and the ability to pass along the information gained by previous generations, we would be starting fresh with each new generation. It would be impossible to reach the kind of conclusions we now are able to. Evolution is so much more than just biological traits. Each aspect of our evolution creates new abilities for each generation.
Sources for Homo naledi research:
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