Ancient History & Civilisation

Only in Africa: The Ecology of Human Evolution

Only in Africa: The Ecology of Human Evolution

That humans originated from Africa is well-known. However, this is widely regarded as a chance outcome, dependant simply on where our common ancestor shared the land with where the great apes lived. This volume builds on from the 'Out of Africa' theory, and takes the view that it is only in Africa that the evolutionary transitions from a forest-inhabiting frugivore to savanna-dwelling meat-eater could have occurred. This book argues that the ecological circumstances that shaped these transitions are exclusive to Africa. It describes distinctive features of the ecology of Africa, with emphasis on savanna grasslands, and relates them to the evolutionary transitions linking early ape-men to modern humans. It shows how physical features of the continent, especially those derived from plate tectonics, set the foundations. This volume adequately conveys that we are here because of the distinctive features of the ecology of Africa.

Part I: The Physical Cradle: Land Forms, Geology, Climate, Hydrology and Soils

Chapter 1. High Africa: Eroding Surfaces

Chapter 2. Climate: Rainfall Seasonality

Chapter 3. Water in Rivers, Lakes and Wetlands

Chapter 4. Bedrock Geology: Volcanic Influences

Chapter 5. Soils: Foundations of Fertility

Part I: Synthesis: Structure of the Physical Cradle

Part II: The Savanna Garden: Grassy Vegetation and Plant Dynamics

Chapter 6. Forms of Savanna: From Woodland to Grassland

Chapter 7. How Trees and Grasses Grow and Compete

Chapter 8. Plant Demography and Dynamics: Fire Traps

Chapter 9. Paleo-savannas: Expanding Grasslands

Part II: Synthesis: Savanna Structure and Dynamics

Part III: The Big Mammal Menagerie: Herbivores, Carnivores and Their Ecosystem Impacts

Chapter 10. Niche Distinctions: Resources Versus Risks

Chapter 11. Big Fierce Carnivores: Hunting Versus Scavenging

Chapter 12. Herbivore Abundance: Bottom-up and Top-down Influences

Chapter 13. How Large Herbivores Transform Savanna Ecosystems

Chapter 14. Paleo-faunas: Rise and Fall of the Biggest Grazers

Part III: Synthesis: Movers of Savanna Dynamics: Grazers, Elephants and Fires

Part IV: Evolutionary Transitions: From Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans

Chapter 15. Primate Predecessors: From Trees to Ground

Chapter 16. Primate Ecology: From Forests into Savannas

Chapter 17. How an Ape Became a Hunter

Chapter 18. Cultural Evolution: From Tools to Art and Genes

Chapter 19. Reticulate Evolution Through Turbulent Times

Chapter 20. Prospects For a Lonely Planet

Appendix: Scientific Names of Extant Animal and Plant Species Mentioned

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