Homo sapiens, modern humans, are part of the order of Primates, which includes the diverse lemurs, lorises, monkeys and apes. Our family of primates, Hominidae, originated between 8 and 6 MYA in Africa. The evolution to modern Homo sapiens comprised both significant changes in physique/genetics (bipedalism, modern body form, increases in cognitive function) and lifestyle/culture (tool-use, symbolism, agriculture). Throughout our history, Homo sapiens has and continues to shape global biodiversity through the spread of disease and non-native species, overhunting and fire-use. In the accompanying exercise, students think about what defines the human species, humanity, and by extension, what distinguishes humans from other animals and forms of biodiversity. This exercise encourages students to consider the relationship between humans and global biodiversity, and reinforces the fact that human evolution is an ongoing and complex process. It can also be extended in order to have students consider the implications of their definitions of humanity today, and the way that society deals with these definitions.
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Evolución Humana y Biodiversidad (Spanish)