NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- According to the latest scientific evidence, it is likely that human evolution was spurred, in large part, by environmental factors. A study conducted by researchers from Penn State and Rutgers University reveals that rapid environmental shifts in Africa, some two million years ago, may have provided the impetus for the beginnings of human evolution. The study has won the attention of scientists from around the world, as well as scientific philanthropists like Jeffrey Epstein.
Jeffrey Epstein—whose Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation has provided crucial funding to evolutionary research programs across the world—weighed in on the new study with a statement to the press. "The Penn State and Rutgers University study emphasizes that evolution does not occur evenly through time, but rather in dramatic spurts through the course of nature's history," Jeffrey Epstein remarks, in his press statement. The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation backs cutting-edge research and scientific inquiry around the world, and financed the establishment of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, which studies evolution through the lens of mathematics and biochemistry.
According to the new study's central hypothesis, changes to the landscape inhabited by early human beings happened at rapid rates, fluctuating between closed woodlands and open grasslands, again and again for a period of 200,000 years. This highly variable environment ultimately led to a significant "drying" of Africa, which, according to the research team, was likely a central factor in human evolution.
The researchers go on to say that, in as few as 10 human generations, early humankind went from an experience of total woodedness to total openness—a dramatic shift that could have spurred not only dietary shifts, but also more vigorous cognitive development.
"Changes in food availability, food type, or the way you get food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those change," says Clayton Magill, a Penn State graduate student who took part in the study.
For the study, researchers effectively reconstructed the different kinds of vegetation that may have been present in Africa, centuries ago, using leaf waxes found in lake sediment. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry were used to chart the abundance of different types of leaf wax.
The study has been heralded for bringing a greater "adaptive perspective" to the study of human evolution.
Jeffrey Epstein is a money manager and philanthropist whose passion is for investing in scientific inquiry and education, throughout the world. Through the work of his Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, he has made significant contributions to universities, hospitals, museums, laboratories, individual scientists and numerous charitable organizations. He is also the organizer of the Jeffrey Epstein Forum, an online avenue for the exchange and development of ideas related to science, technology, economics, and culture. In addition to founding the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation and the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, Jeffrey Epstein is a former member of Rockefeller University, the New York Academy of Science, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and currently sits on the board of the Mind, Brain and Behavior Committee at Harvard University.
SOURCE Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation