Human Evolution

By Schwartz, Leah | The American Biology Teacher, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Human Evolution


Schwartz, Leah, The American Biology Teacher


HUMAN EVOLUTION. 2006. CDROM and Workbook. Developed by Biozone International Ltd, 109 Cambridge Rd, Hamilton 3216, New Zealand. Visit www.biozone.co.nz for more information and contact sales@biozone.co.nz for ordering. $99.95. In addition, it can be purchased as a bundle along with the Evolution and Genes & Inheritance CD's for a significant discount price.

Human evolution is a subject of abiding fascination to students. This excellent workbook and its supporting CD-ROM materials give the topic a thorough and detailed examination. Suitable for high school senior biology courses, or introductory college courses in biology, evolution or anthropology, the workbook takes students through primate classification, hominin evolution and cultural evolution. All information presented is up to date, a difficult to achieve, but exceedingly important goal when dealing with human evolution.

Primate groups are examined in detail; from prosimians through monkeys to the great apes and humans, major morphological features of each group are compared. Niches and behaviour are not forgotten, nor is the fossil record. A particular strength here is the integration of DNA evidence into classification and an examination of its use to estimate divergence dates. Accompanying the workbook, presentation materials provided on the CD make sure to include the role of plate tectonics when investigating the adaptive radiation of primate groups.

The section on hominin evolution does an excellent job of working through the now quite bushy hominin evolutionary tree, beginning before australopithecines and including such recent additions as Homo floresiensis. As noted by the authors, a small difficulty here might be the workbook outstripping the textbooks in its up-to-date information, a problem they deal with as a teachable moment, explaining that many other such fossil species may yet remain to be found. This section goes on to provide more lessons in comparative anatomy and morphological analysis. Other worksheets use the controversial nature of the phylogenetic reconstruction of the hominin tree to examine the nature of science, and use the change in reconstructions over time to touch on the punctuated equilibrium vs. gradualism debate of evolutionary theorists. Each fossil hominin is examined in detail, and major steps in the development of modern humans, such as bipedalism, nakedness and intelligence are all covered. Finally, the dating of fossils and the context of fossil sites adds strength to the interpretations provided. …

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