Was human evolution driven by Pleistocene climate change?

Ciência and Ambiente 1 (48):107-117 (2014)
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Modern humans are probably a product of social and anatomical preadaptations on the part of our Miocene australopithecine ancestors combined with the increasingly high amplitude, high frequency climate variation of the Pleistocene. The genus Homo first appeared in the early Pleistocene as ice age climates began to grip the earth. We hypothesize that this co-occurrence is causal. The human ability to adapt by cultural means is, in theory, an adaptation to highly variable environments because cultural evolution can better track rapidly changing environments than can genes. High resolution ice and sediment cores published in the early 1990s showed the last ice age was characterized by high amplitude millennial and submillenial scale variation, exactly the sort of variation mathematical models suggest should favor a costly capacity for culture. More recent cores suggest that over the last several 100 thousand year glacial cycles the amount of millennial scale variation has increased rather dramatically in parallel with increases in hominin brain size and sophistication of the artifacts they made.
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