Homo Sapiens - The Birth of Humanity (NOVA Full Documentary)

Nothing is more fascinating to us than, well, us. Where did we come from? What makes us human? An explosion of recent discoveries sheds light on these questions, and NOVA's comprehensive, three-part special, "Becoming Human," examines what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid relatives.

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Comment by Belle Rose on September 11, 2015 at 2:09am

That was a fascinating video Umar...

One thing it made me wonder - is if homo sapiens are perhaps several of our ancestors, not just one...I'm not explaining it well. But for example, the ones who were really short vs the others who are tall, we still see that to this day. Is it possible that what we consider to be "homo sapien" is in fact several different species? I mean could we even still be from more than one species? Perhaps that would explain why we still kill, and hate those that are not like us. Just a thought.

Comment by Belle Rose on September 11, 2015 at 2:37am
It would also explain why so-called "inter-racial breeding" was (and for many countries still is) considered taboo and is so contentious for some people. It would explain why we normally are attracted most to people "like us."
Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on September 11, 2015 at 7:09am

Now we have more cousins to consider within the branches of our Tree of Life - Homo Naledi -  recently discovered in Africa where we also evolved.

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 11, 2015 at 8:12am

Thanks Umar, I shall watch all three intently. 

@Belle - Homo sapiens is a single species, us.  But it is thought that we could have interbred with Neanderthals and other related species, because some of their DNA turns up in the human genome. 

I put the human "fear of the other" down to the intensely group-oriented nature of human society, and this group-living impulse evolved far back in our family tree, 2 million years or so ago, at a time when our ancestor species survived on the savannah by living in small groups.  As I understand it, there's no evidence of inter-group warfare until 15,000 years ago, when the human population was expanding and there was competition for territory and resources.  Before that time, strangers would have been an asset rather than a competition.  But this inter-group competition instilled our fear and distrust of the "other", and is one of the banes of human existence.  At the same time, group loyalty drives much of our most admirable behaviour.  If only we could stop demonizing people from other groups, whether it be liberal-conservative or Western-muslim. 

@Reg - it will be interesting to find out the life-habits of Homo naledi. 

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on September 11, 2015 at 10:23am

While I don’t have the references to hand to support this statement, I think the idea we interbred with other “human” species may have been demoted. It is more likely that we inherited a shared sequence of DNA from species further back on the branch. It is possible too, due to the large variety of different Homo species, that Human evolution was more or a “tangled bush” than a linear development and that we are a product of earlier diverse humanoids interbreeding.

Neanderthals existed for over 300,000 years, a lot longer than we have been around. Maybe if we use our collective brains we will surpass them but not if too many of us keep dragging our knuckles……

Comment by SteveInCO on September 11, 2015 at 11:30am

One thing is for certain.  We cannot have interbred with other species by definition.   Offspring might result from an attempt (if it's a close enough relative) but that offspring, itself, will be sterile, end of "interbreeding."

What we might have (assuming that what Reg says in his first paragraph immediately above me isn't true) is interbreeding with other subspecies.

Comment by SteveInCO on September 11, 2015 at 11:32am

...and yes, I caught that story about Homo naledi, too.  Makes one wonder what-all we still have no inkling of, in our past.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on September 11, 2015 at 11:45am

Yes, StevelnCO, you point about “subspecies” is correct. There are biologists that describe Neanderthals as a subspecies of HomoSapiens rather than a distinct species and I think that is what gave rise to the “4% DNA” theory. However I am not up to date on this area.

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 11, 2015 at 11:45am

I agree that it's very difficult for two separate species to interbreed giving fertile offspring - we have tigons and ligers, and the ass, but they're not fertile.  But as I understand it, DNA can somehow swap between species sometimes.  Maybe we just ate the other species. 

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 11, 2015 at 11:46am

Neanderthals were a cousin of ours - we both evolved from Homo heidelbergensis: Neanderthals in Europe, Homo sapiens in Africa. 

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