“We must acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities... still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” – Charles Darwin
These days, most of us know the basics of Darwin’s foundational contributions to evolutionary science, from his theory of natural selection to humanity’s “lowly” origins in the animal kingdom. But as natural science progresses day by day, there are more and more evolutionary discoveries you’re less likely to know about.
If you’re interested in connecting practical science and philosophical thought, analyzing theory with a critical eye, and forming a deeper understanding of the world around you, the natural sciences are the place to begin. Here are five surprising evolution facts for those interested in natural science studies:
1. Goosebumps on Our Skin = Relics of a Hairy Past
Humans used to have thick hair which could stand on end, much like how the hairs on the back of your neck might stand on end when you’re frightened or cold. Over thousands of years the mats of hair shed away, but the physiologic response stayed.
It’s strange but true: the next time you get goosebumps take a look at your skin and consider—in your earliest ancestors, from every bump, a thick dark hair once protruded.
2. Ancient ‘Hobbits’ Have Been Uncovered by Natural Science Studies
In 2004, Australian and Indonesian scientists discovered a “hobbit-like species of human” in ancient sediment deposits on a remote island in Indonesia. They named them Homo floresiensis, and learned they grew to the size of a three-year-old child—about 3.3ft tall and 55 pounds.
The natural sciences studies community has dubbed the Homo floresiensis skeletons the most spectacular discoveries in paleoanthropology in half a century. Evidence even suggests they used stone tools and lived among dwarf elephants, exciting the imaginations of Tolkien fans everywhere.
3. Natural Science Studies Show: Herpes Predates Humanity
Today about 67 per cent of people have at least one herpes simplex virus, which either manifests as cold sores on the mouth or genital blisters. And new research suggests herpes has been irritating our faces for millennia.
In 2014, researchers in California found that human herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and -2) had infected hominids (pre-humans) before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees six million years ago. These findings are predicted to help us better prevent the spread of similar viruses in years to come.
4. These Hands Were Made for Punching, According to Natural Science Studies
Were human hands made to kill or create? According to a University of Utah study, they evolved to do a bit of both. Monkeys and humans both have dextrous thumbs that make for delicate handiwork—but unlike apes, we can clench our hands into fists: an ability that researchers traced back to our origins as “aggressive fighting machines.”
Key differences between ape and human hands inspired this new evolutionary research.
They say punching with a clenched fist is extraordinary because it allows humans to strike with great force without hurting themselves. If you’ve ever been punched, you can now blame evolution for how much it hurt.
5. Slow Metabolisms Helped the Human Race Survive
Today’s best natural science programs can teach you to see science as being shaped by the humanities. You’ll learn how scientific ideas about everything from chemistry to quantum theory have been influenced by specific social and historical climates and factors, and how these can inform stronger scientific analysis.
For example, researchers who looked at metabolism from a historical standpoint discovered that humans’ slow metabolism isn’t just a hindrance to weight-loss, but a cause of our longevity. They say ancient environmental conditions slowed our metabolisms to keep our stomachs fuller longer, preserving lives when food was scarce.
Great insights come from open minds with alternative perspectives! And with the right education, it doesn’t take centuries to cultivate your own.
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