[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 3-Nov-2003
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Contact: Ann Cairns
acairns@geosociety.org
303-357-1056
Geological Society of America

Debate heats up on role of climate in human evolution

Boulder, Colo.- Scientists at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Seattle next week are taking a comprehensive new look at drivers of human evolution. It now appears that climate variability during the Plio-Pleistocene (approximately 6 million years in duration) played a hugely important role. Astronomically controlled climate forcing on scales ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 years down to El Niños (5-7 years) made a highly unpredictable environment in which generalists with intelligence, language, and creativity were best able to adapt.

Traditional studies of human evolution have focused largely on finding and dating hominid fossils. Today the investigation is rapidly expanding with advances in DNA research and understanding of global climate change. The combination of archeological, geologic, and paleoclimatic evidence allows scientists to explore such tantalizing questions as:

"The answers to these questions will not all come from the bones, but from what was taking place in the environment in which they were found," says Gail Ashley, Dept. of Geological Sciences, Rutgers University.

Ashley and Craig Feibel of Rutgers have assembled an interdisciplinary group of distinguished scientists – physical anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists, and paleoclimatologists – for a Pardee Keynote Symposia, The Paleoenvironmental and Paleoclimatic Framework of Human Evolution. The symposium takes place at GSA on Monday, Nov. 3.

The Paleoenvironmental and Paleoclimatic Framework of Human Evolution Monday, Nov. 3, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., WSCTC Ballroom 6B

During the GSA Annual Meeting, Nov. 2-5, contact Ann Cairns at the GSA Newsroom, Washington State Convention Center and Trade Center, Seattle, for assistance and to arrange for interviews: 206-219-4615.

Geological Society of America
115th Annual Meeting
Nov. 2-5, 2003
Washington State Convention and Trade Center
Seattle, WA, USA

Geological Society of America
www.geosociety.org

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