Scientists have known for at least a century that the human hand has unique characteristics designed for gripping and manipulating objects, as opposed to the locomotion-designed hands of our closest ape relatives. Recently, Dr. Stephen Lycett and Alastair Key of the University of Kent, England, published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science showing an important breakthrough: Darwin was right — about our hands, that is.
Lycett and Key’s study measured how hand size affected users’ ability to cut rope using stone-flake tools similar to those discovered in Africa and used by early humans 2.6 million years ago. To sum up, hand size did prove to be a significant factor in how well different people could manipulate different forms of stone tools. The experiments support the concept that natural selection favored cave-folk with the correct “biometric variation” (i.e. more modern and less ape-like hands) — and therefore, those better able to use tools were more likely to live on and reproduce.
A final interesting thought from Dr. Lycett: “From a very early stage in our evolution, the cultural behaviour of our ancestors was influencing biological evolution in specific ways.” So, perhaps showing your kids the proper way to use hand tools really will make your distant descendants more successful at the survival game.
Stone Tools Influenced Hand Evolution in Our Ancestors
[University of Kent Research News]
Technology Based Evolution?
[Article by Lycett and Key from the Journal of Archeological Science]