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Questions for Where Do Humans Come From?

SCIENCE

Before reading:

  1. What is a hominid?
  2. Long ago, where did the species that would evolve humanlike features live?
  3. How long ago did the line of species — known by the genus name Homo — first emerge?

During reading:

  1. Who first discovered the Malapa fossils?
  2. In what country were they found?
  3. The skeletons came from folks who were how old when they died?
  4. What genus did they belong to — and what is a genus?
  5. How old were the Malapa fossils?
  6. How did features of these skeletons compare to the bone structure of people alive today?
  7. What were the long arms of the Malapa fossils good for?
  8. What kind of gait did A. sediba have?
  9. Why do some paleontologists doubt A. sediba’s line led to that of Homo?
  10. Who was Lee Berger’s hero?
  11. Why does he doubt the importance of A. sediba in the evolution of modern humans?

After reading:

  1. Explain the problems of assigning a species — or even a genus — to most hominid fossils. (Hint: Consider what types of bones researchers have to work with.)
  2. Explain the role of the environment, including soil, in figuring out a fossil’s age. Also explain the role of the environment (including animals) in affecting what fossils are available to be found. (Hint: Consider what happened at Malapa.)

SOCIAL STUDIES

  1. Do your own research (in books or on the web) to learn more about the Hadar and Malapa sites. Mark them on a map of Africa. Describe their environment and climate. From this information, offer some reasons to explain why it’s taken so long to find the fossils of Australopithecines there, but also why these may be among the best sites in Africa to hunt for such fossils?
  2. List all of the Australopithecine and Homo species described in this story. Now do some library (or web) research and make a chart of which lived when. Also list how many different types of bones exist from which scientists can estimate the characteristics of each species. What did you find most surprising?

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