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Since January 1, 2014
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My Notes on Massive Open Online Course:
Human Evolution: Past and Future
Introduction to the science of human origins, the fossil and archaeological record, and genetic ancestry of living and ancient human populations. The course emphasizes the ways our evolution touches our lives, including health and diet, and explores how deep history may shape the future of our species.
Notes on 9 Lectures I Watched in This Course:
Rising Star Expedition - Fall 2013
Savanna Chimpanzees
The Molecular Clock
What is Biological Evolution?
The Place of Ardipithecus
Hominid Bipedality
Early Hominins
Hominin Species and Speciation
The Laetoli Footprints of Australopithecus afarensis
1 People I Have Learned About in this Course:
Linus Pauling (1901-1994)
American biochemist who received the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize
  • one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century
  • one of the founders of the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology
  • 1926: awarded Guggenheim Fellowship to study under German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld in Munich, Danish physicist Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in Zürich, all three were experts in the new field of quantum mechanics
12 Vocabulary Words I Learned in this Course:
Hominidae, n. [haw-MIN-i-dee] A taxonomic family of primates, including four extant genera: (1) chimpanzees of genus Pan, (2) gorillas of genus Gorilla, (3) humans of genus Homo, (4) orangutans of genus Pongo. A member of the Hominidae family is often called a "hominid" although another popular meaning of hominid is the more restricted sense as "hominids" or "humans and relatives of humans closer than chimpanzees", e.g. Homo Neanderthalensis, Homo Soloensis, Homo Floresiensis, and Homo Erectus.  "The most recent common ancestor of the Hominidae lived roughly 14 million years ago, when the ancestors of the orangutans speciated from the ancestors of the other three genera"
clade, n. group consisting of an ancestor and all its descendants, a single branch on ancestrial tree, many familiar groups, rodents and insects for example, are clades; others, like lizards and monkeys, are not (lizards excludes snakes, monkeys excludes apes and humans)  "The term "clade" was introduced in 1958 by Julian Huxley after having been coined by Lucien Cuénot in 1940."
cladistics, n. an approach to biological classification in which organisms are grouped together based on whether or not they have one or more shared unique characteristics that come from the group's last common ancestor and are not present in more distant ancestors  "A sister group or sister taxon is a systematic term from cladistics denoting the closest relatives of a group in a phylogenetic tree."
cladogram, n. [CLAY-doh-gram] a diagram used in cladistics which shows relations among organisms  "A cladogram showing the terminology used to describe different patterns of ancestral and derived character states."
galago, n. a small, nocturnal primate native to Africa, commonly known as "bush babies", they evolved 40–50 million years ago from slow-moving prosimians that could not compete with larger, faster primates in Africa, the competition was much less at night, so they evolved into the bush babies they are today, and in both variety and abundance, bush babies are the most successful primitive primates in Africa  "With one possible exception, in the suborder Strepsirrhini, which includes lemurs, galagos and lorises, the grooming claw is on the second toe."
macaque, n. [mah-KAK] aside from humans (genus Homo), the macaques (genus Macaca) are the most widespread primate genus, ranging from Japan to Afghanistan and, in the case of the barbary macaque, to North Africa  "One study of crab-eating macaques found that a female has a greater likelihood to engage in sexual activity with a male if he had recently groomed her, compared to males who had not groomed her."
nucleotide, n. nucleotides are organic molecules that serve as the subunits of nucleic acids like DNA and RNA, and carry packets of energy within the cell (ATP), and play an important role in metabolism  "The human genome consists of 3 billion nucleotides."
phenotype, n. the composite of an organism's observable characteristics or traits, such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, phrenology, behavior, and products of behavior (such as a bird's nest)  "An organism's genotype is the set of genes that it carries. An organism's phenotype is all of its observable characteristics—which are influenced both by its genotype and by the environment."
phylogenetics, n. The study of evolutionary relationships among groups of organisms, which are discovered through molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices. Evolution is a process whereby populations are altered over time and may split into separate branches, hybridize together, or terminate by extinction. The evolutionary branching process may be depicted as a phylogenetic tree, and the place of each of the various organisms on the tree is based on a hypothesis about the sequence in which evolutionary branching events occurred.  "Molecular phylogenetics is the branch of phylogeny that analyses hereditary molecular differences, mainly in DNA sequences, to gain information on an organism's evolutionary relationships."
pseudogene, n. a non-working gene, or gene that once worked in ancient organisms but stopped working at some point in our evolutionary history, e.g. psi-eta-globin which still exists in the DNA of all primates but not longer produces a product  "In the discussions of genetic diseases in humans, pseudogene mediated gene conversion that introduce pathogenic mutations into functional genes is a well known mechanism of mutation."
somatic, adj. of, relating to, or affecting the body, corporeal, physical, especially as distinguished from the mind or the environment  "Objects like a basketball, a jet or a piano play a role in somatic cognition that is similar to the role of words in conscious thought."
tamarin, n. squirrel-sized New World monkeys from the family Callitrichidae in the genus Saguinus, lives in Central and South America in tropical rain forests  "In some cases, such as in the cotton-top tamarin, males, particularly those that are paternal, will even show a greater involvement in caregiving than females."
5 Flashcards I Recorded in this Course:
woman who studies chimpanzees in African savanna and where
Jill Pruetz in Fongoli, Senegal
nocturnal monkeys in Africa
squirrel-sized monkeys in Brazil
genus of extinct primates that may have been the ancestor to modern orangutans, lived about 12 million years ago
Sivapithecus [shee-vah-PITH-i-kuss]
what were Darwin's three main ideas?
1. natural selection, 2. common descent, 3. slight short-term changes can lead to large long-term changes