Anthropology | Bioanthropology
B200 | 1093 | Wiley
B200 is an introductory course in biological anthropology, which is
concerned with biological variation among contemporary humans, the
place of humans in the natural world, and the evolutionary history of
our species, Homo sapiens. It broadly considers the question of what
it means to be a human from a biological and scientific perspective.
This large endeavor requires diverse approaches: biological
anthropologists study genetics, the fossil record of human evolution,
non-human primates (the order of mammals to which humans are most
closely related), and the biology of contemporary human populations.
All of these are linked by evolutionary theory, which provides us with
a way of understanding why and how human populations vary and why and
how our species and its ancestors have changed over time. Evolutionary
theory stresses the importance of the environment as the driving force
that leads to biological change, and thus we will focus on human
adaptations - both those that characterize Homo sapiens, and those
that contribute to biological variation among our species.
First we will do an overview of evolutionary theory and basic
genetics, leading up to the modern synthesis of Darwin's ideas and
Mendelian genetics. We will then turn to an examination of human
biological variation, including the concept of race, genetic
adaptations and variation that derives from physiological plasticity.
Next we will consider humans in relation to members of the primate
order. We will finish with a review of the fossil record that
documents the natural history of our species. The focus will be on the
emergence of the key adaptations that characterize Homo sapiens:
bipedalism and the large brain.