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Discussion Questions

This page contains resource questions and discussion points designed to further conversation on the subject of human evolution.


1. Humans are members of the Hominin group, a subset of the Hominoid group. What are the key factors that define Hominins within the Hominoids and what is the relationship between these groups and the primates? 


2. Natural selection is a term that is used extensively when discussing evolution. Define what this term means and discuss factors that contribute to selection. 


3. What is meant by fitness in evolutionary terms? Explain the relationship between evolutionary fitness, adaptation and selection. 


4. Adaptive radiation can be observed in multiple groups of living organisms. Mammals and primates are examples of these groups. Define what is meant by adaptive radiation and, using examples, discuss factors that lead to adaptive radiation. 


5. Bipedalism is a significant adaptation that led to selection relating to increased brain size, cultural evolution, and the development of intelligence. However, there are costs and trade offs associated. Discuss adaptations, survival advantages, and costs related to the development of bipedalism.


6. Discuss the origins of brain expansion in terms of adaptive advantages and costs.


7. Sickle cell anaemia is widespread in African populations despite the devastating impact of this condition in the homozygous individual. Define the term heterozygous advantage and explain why the HbS allele is common in African populations yet rare in most other populations around the world.


Important Vocabulary: Test Yourself

Adaptation Adaptive advantage Adaptive cost
Adaptive radiation Australopithecus afarensis Biological evolution
Bipedalism Cultural evolution Evolutionary fitness
Hominin Hominoid Homo erectus
Homo habilis Homo neanderthalensis Homo sapiens
Life history Primate Selection