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BiologyBy Joe Burgett -

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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How Melanin Changed In Humans

Due to the temperature, people wear layers a lot more and slowly begin staying indoors more. Thus, melanin had no choice but to switch to a less protective tone. This gave us white people. Those same white people can still darken to handle the sun’s rays, which is the concept behind why white people “tan.”

On an interesting note, technically modern brown and black people might not tan like a white person. However, they ARE changing in melanin the more they are outdoors vs indoors. Melanin also dictates hair thickness as well even our eye color! The more melanin in the iris of our eyes leads to brown but less will result in blue or green. Melanin will also dictate the darkness of those eyes too.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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Alfred Russel Wallace Was Just As Influential On Evolution As Charles Darwin

As mentioned, Charles Darwin was not the only person to discover that natural selection was a key part of evolution. Alfred Russel Wallace also discovered this. Both men did this independently but came up in the same field together. Wallace was also a biologist who, like Darwin, had a lot of success in his field.

Why does Wallace seem to get no credit while Darwin gets all of it? This seems to be due to how they went about delivering their information to the world. Wallace wrote a paper on Natural Selection while Darwin wrote an entire freakin book! His paper was published alongside Darwin’s in 1858. The seemingly interesting success from this pushed Darwin to write his book.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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The Wallace Line

Alfred is very notable in the world of geography as well, but both his biology and geographic experience came together when he spoke about the Malay Archipelago. This had to do with a clear separation between Asia and Australia as a result of a line that animals and fauna picked themselves seemingly. Today, we call this the Wallace Line. Alfred discovered that the Indonesian Archipelago was able to be separated into two different parts.

A Western Portion is easily more Asian as it shows proof of creatures that connect to Asia. An Eastern Portion, however, shows fauna that connects to the Australian region. Why is this so compelling? Because it proved to us that, like with humans, animals and plants also pick the conditions that are best for their survival. If the two worlds met between the West and East, they’d naturally take each other out. The separation, however, allows us to keep them apart and both can survive as a result.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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Man’s Place In The Universe

Wallace was a pioneer in the world of Biogeography and was even far ahead of his time in terms of speaking to life on other planets. In his book “Man’s Place in the Universe,” he became the first biologist to make a serious attempt to claim or hypothesis the possibility that life could be on other planets. In particular, he wrote about Mars.

Today, we know Mars once had water, though we still don’t know if any life ever did. Other planets, however, have proof of plants, trees, etc. Some still living to this day! Their form of evolution and especially natural selection could differ. However, it is clear that both terms are universal, quite literally. In that no matter what, life will have to abide by these principles. In fact, humans have even shown that we evolve even as we enter space.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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NASA Twin Study

We see a decrease in body mass, an increase in inflammation, artery walls thicken, gene alterations and mutations can be triggered. People have also gotten taller due to the lack of gravity. This, however, goes back to normal when a person comes back to Earth. While we saw how it affected many in space, it was hard to note how much we changed. This was when a test was done to find a way to compare and contrast exact issues. NASA studied two twin men, where one of the twins went into space while the other twin stayed on Earth.

Mark and Scott Kelly both are obviously the same in several ways but would they look any different if one left the planet? Not only did Scott (space twin) show differences in his looks when he came back, but there were other big differences too. After spending near a year in space, Scott on just his appearance had gotten taller than his brother. In his face, he also looked younger than Mark. NASA also found several other differences between the two men after Scott returned. To learn more about this study, you can read NASA’s findings here.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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Didn’t We Come From Monkeys Or Apes?

You might hear this a lot when it comes to those who like to try and dismantle evolution. These same people are also incorrect and correct at the same time. It is true that humans are technically primates, just like monkeys and apes. However, while we do share a common ancestor, humans did not “come from apes or monkeys.”

We all belong to the Hominidae Family, but humans belong to the Hominid Sector. Remember how we discussed the patterns and types of evolution above? It plays a critical role in the development of modern-day humans. We also have a lot in common with those in the Hominidae family.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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Proof Of Our Connection: Palmar Grasp Reflex

There’s a lot of proof that evolution exists, as we can look at our similarities to other primates. For example, we all have hair that grows all over our bodies. It might not be as much in humans, but some have mutations that cover them in literal head to toe fashion. One way we can prove this is through the Palmar Grasp Reflex. The Grasp comes from a period in which humans are just like their primate brethren.

When a human baby is first born all the way up to 6 months of age, they are able to hold themselves up. Yes, they can hold their own body weight. This can be tested where you have a baby hold a bar, like one of those from gym class. They’ll hold themselves up relatively well though it is unpredictable. This is leftover from a period in which newborns had to hold onto the fur of their mothers as mom swung from tree to tree.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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Proof Of Our Connection: Goosebumps

Goosebumps are often felt when we get scared or feel cold. It is also a book series, but we don’t need to go into that world any time soon. You might even refer to Goosebumps simply as “chill bumps.” As most might assume, this seems kind of weird so why does it happen? Centuries ago, this worked for two big reasons.

The first was that it made our hair come up like a protective layer to warm us when we’re cold. It was also present to puff up and make us look bigger to predators. Thereby making them not want to attack us. Of course, humans kept the bumps section of this but our lack of major hair removed the other cool stuff.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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The Split From Other Primates – The Start

We split from other primates somewhere between 7 to 14 million years ago. This is a critical thing to remember, as we did not completely separate right away. Thus, ancient humans were part of a few early groups. The first was the original Hominini, this was the closest related ancestor we as humans have to the ape, chimpanzee, etc. The second is the Ardipithecus, which slowly became a period where the first bipedal humans came to be. This is essentially the time when we first began to walk on two legs.

The third is the Australopithecus, which was the first to begin using stone tools and other means to create things. The fourth in the line is the Homo habilis, thought to be an evolved set of the Australopithecus. You could likely call them the earliest known version of the caveman. The fifth ancestor to the human is the Homo Erectus, the first version of humans to use fire and cook.

Evolution Explained So A 5 Year Old Could Understand
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The Split From Other Primates – Where We Are Today

H. heidelbergensis was the sixth and final ancestor to the human. People tend to connect Homo Erectus and H. heidelbergensis with the Neanderthal. However, the latter was the main period in which the Neanderthal lived. It is the period when we first began to wear clothing of some kind.

Right after this, Homo Sapiens (modern humans) came to pass. Keep in mind that for a period of time, Homo Sapiens and Neanderthal lived alongside each other. This meant we could have seen the two sides mate, which could have led to some of the humans that lived isolated from others for thousands of years. As you can see, we are at least 6 evolved generations away from the ape and chimp, living in the 7th.