[BERG] Origins of Us (BBC2 on Monday, 31 Oct @ 9pm)

Betsy Herrelko bherrelko at gmail.com
Sat Oct 29 10:03:43 BST 2011

Hi folks,

If you have a chance, check out the next episode of *Origins of Us on BBC2
(Monday, 31 October @ 9pm) *which examines evolution of the brain. This
episode includes a segment on social politics highlighting the dynamics
within Edinburgh Zoo's recently formed group of 21 chimpanzees as I chat
briefly with Dr Alice Roberts about Machiavellian intelligence.

Episode: 3 of 3
Duration: 1 hour

In the final episode Dr Alice Roberts explores how our species, homo
sapiens, developed our large brain; and asks why we are the only one of our
kind left on the planet today?

The evolution of the human mind is one of the greatest mysteries. We are
special because of our extraordinary brain, and to understand why we think
and act the way we do, we need to look at where and why our brains evolved.

The Rift Valley in Kenya is thought to be the crucible of human evolution,
and here Alice examines the fossils in our family tree which reveal our
brains have more than quadrupled in size since our ancestors split from
chimpanzees. Drawing on research on social politics in chimpanzees, the
cognitive development of children and the tools that have been found
littered across the Rift Valley, Alice explores how and why our ancestors
brains became so big. It's thought their need to understand each other and
share knowledge has fundamentally shaped the brains we live with today.

But our big brains came at a cost. Alice visits a maternity hospital to
explore how our difficulties in giving birth are a result of our large
brained babies, and travels to meet the women of the Hadza tribe to explore
how looking after our large-brained children has shaped the life histories
of all of us. Research suggests old age isn't a consequence of modern
medicine, but an evolutionary adaptation to allow grandmothers to help
raise their grandchildren.

Successive species of increasingly large brained humans migrated around the
world - from Homo erectus to heidelbergensis, the Neanderthals to us. It's
always been assumed the reason that Homo sapiens succeeded where others
failed is to do with our large brains. But comparing skulls it's clear
Neanderthals had just as big a brain as us. So why is there only us left?
Alice goes to meet Svante Paabo, decoding the Neanderthal and human genome,
and Clive Finlayson, who is unearthing the Neanderthals final settlement,
to try to find out...



Elizabeth (Betsy) Herrelko
Postgraduate Student, University of Stirling
Honorary Research Associate, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

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