Great Mysteries of Human Evolution

Discover, 24 (9): 34-43 (September 2003)

by Carl Zimmer

Vocabulary List:
evolution natural selection
DNA fragment paleoanthropologist
fossil geneticist
sequenced human genome Lucy
primate hominid
bonobo savannah
bipedalism last common ancestor
dexterity mitochondrial DNA
cranium brow ridge



When you have finished reading this article and attended the lecture/discussions, you should be able to:

  1. be familiar with the definition, spelling, and use of the above vocabulary terms.
  2. give a listing of your human genealogy, from kingdom to species.
  3. define evolution and give an example of how its mechanism, natural selection, operates.
  4. discuss whether or not you will be a fossil to be discovered in 10,000 years.
  5. explain the ways in which scientists calculate the age of very old materials.
  6. be able to discuss briefly the major points of the article:
    • Who was the first hominid?
    • Why do we walk upright?
    • Why are our brains so big?
    • When did we first use tools?
    • How did we get modern minds?
    • Why did we outlive our relatives?
    • What genes make us human?
    • Have we stopped evolving?



Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences

Human Evolution:  You Try It!

Fossil Hominids:  The Evidence for Human Evolution

Human Evolution:  The Fossil Evidence in 3-D