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Domestication of animals helped humanity thrive.

A new theory coming out of Pennsylvania State University suggests that the interaction between animals and humans played a key role in the evolution of humanity.  Penn State anthropologist Pat Shipman has just published her paper "The Animal Connection And Human Evolution" in the latest edition of Current Anthropology

Her research introduces the idea that the domestication of animals drove the development of tool-making and language, both of which have driven the success of mankind, according to Physorg

"Establishing an intimate connection to other animals is unique and universal to our species," said Shipman. Shipman indicates that the animal connection had a major influence on human evolution, genetics, and behavior.
 
While Shipman acknowledges that there is an increasingly intimate and reciprocal set of interactions between animals and humans -- interactions that compel humans to adopt animals as pets -- she states that the it all began when humans began observing and exploiting animals.    

After watching animals and observing their habits, more than 2 million years ago, humans switched from a vegetarian diet to a meat-based diet.  Shipman said this happened because humans invented stone hunting tools that enabled them to compete with other predators, according to
 Thaindian News

"We shortcut the evolutionary process,” said Shipman. “We don’t have the equipment to be carnivores."

Animals were then domesticated as an extension of tool-making.  Shipman described domesticated animals as living tools that also provided valuable renewable resources.

Domesticated animals were utilized for their muscular power beyond human strength, use as transport and for raw materials. Managing these living tools required some way to express and retain this information and out of that need, the development of languages were formed.

Shipman hypothesizes that this animal connection, "gave a selective advantage to humans who had better abilities to observe, draw conclusions, communicate, and to make a new sort of living tool."

Shipman is also in the process of developing a book on her findings called "The Animal Connection".



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RE: Make a Name for Yourself
By rs1 on 8/11/2010 4:22:15 PM , Rating: 2
For once I agree with you. This research appears to be based upon little more than the thought experiment of "how would ancient people have passed on the knowledge of animal husbandry? By developing communication skills, that's how". And while that's not an unreasonable conclusion, you get the same answer if you ask "how would ancient people have passed on the knowledge of how to make weapons" or "how would ancient people have passed on knowledge about hunting and gathering", both of which predate domesticated animals by a fairly significant span of time.

So sure, domesticated animals probably did play a role insofar as the process of domestication introduces new concepts that need to be communicated. However, it doesn't seem like there's any evidence to suggest that the role played by domesticated animals is any larger or more significant than the role played by weapons, tools, pottery, agriculture, or any other novel concept that people have come up with over the past hundred thousand years or so.


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