Date
22 November 2017
The need to find new sources of fresh water has shaped human evolution, according to a new stream of thought. Photo: Reuters
The need to find new sources of fresh water has shaped human evolution, according to a new stream of thought. Photo: Reuters

Fresh water charts human course on evolutionary map

First meat, then fire and now water. Evolutionary biologists long have offered up various theories on what enabled Homo erectus to straighten its back and develop a bigger brain about 1.8 million years ago.

Not so long ago, consensus had it that the big moment came when naked apes made the switch from vegan to carnivore. More recently, scientists have seen cooking as the turning point of what became a worldwide takeover.

Now, according to The Economist, zoologist Clive Finlayson says the spread of our evolutionary ancestors was down to changes in climate and access to fresh water.

Finlayson maintains that early humans came down from the trees to live at the edges of lakes and rivers, going farther afield as rainforests became drier steppes and savannah. The environmental stresses led to longer-limbed, lighter and more agile humans who were quicker movers and ahead in the running to find food and water.

He says humans chased rain rather than the coast as they extended their range with the waxing and waning of the climate.

Water shortages and deluges could send humans packing again as climate change alters the ecosystems that support life as we know it with HD TVs and fast fashion. Perhaps this time we will evolve into something with a better appreciation for natural resources. 

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SK

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