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The Space and Astronomy Agora
Itís A Family Affair...

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Posted by Kyle on September 9, 2002 00:23:59 UTC

Hello Mike,

I wanted to share a thought I got as I read your post. I'm not sure if itís even related to what you said (which I thought was interesting), but itís on the general topic and I find it helps me to put things into an interesting perspective.

The Earthís population is over 6 billion and growing...
Faced with that kind of global crowding, the tendency is to view "genetic lineages" as properties of individuals, and not as properties of species. And thatís understandable because, as individuals, itís at this level that we undergo Ďcompetitioní to ensure the continuation of our own immediate genetic lineage.

What we can easily lose sight of is that there is als a distinct and very successfully human genetic lineage that every single past, present and future human is a part of!

The human story started in the African savannas during the late Pliocene (2 million years ago) -- a group of prehumans called the Australopithecines (descended from the last common ancestor of humans and the great apes) were on their way to extinction...
Although they had small braincases compared to us, they were fully bipedal like us (not Ďhunched overí as in popular myth), they lived in tight social groups, and they used tools (Iíd guess that a web-search under "Olduvai Gorge" will produce the supporting fossil record).
A small isolated branch of Australopithecines (geographically and therefore reproductively isolated ), had evolved larger braincases, and eventually the descendants of this 'big-brained' group, which anthropologists estimate originally numbered perhaps 5,000 individuals, came to dominate that section of East Africa, where they quickly outcompeted the original Australopithecines until the latter went extinct.

This was the dawn of Mankind, where evolution gave rise to the first members of our Genus Homo. This new animal on the African savanna-- bipedal and intelligent-- was the direct linear antecedent of all modern humans.

Therefore the six billion people alive on Earth today (you, me, everyone) are all the direct living descendants of those first 5,000 or so individuals. And they were originally a genetically homogenous group(ie. not that much genetic variation among them) which suggests that they in turn evolved from a smaller original homogenous group. Conceivably, there existed an Australopithecine ĎAdam and Eveí, one original mating pair (one of whom possessed an abnormally large brain ), who are quite literally EVERYONEíS "great, great, great... ...great, great, great grandparents".

So there are 6 billion individual genetic lines that all converge backwards DIRECTLY FROM OFFSPRING TO PARENT to that original pair... forming one giant single genetic lineage that is humankind.

Therefore we are ONE GREAT BIG FAMILY!


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