Simulating Human Origins and Evolution
Ken Wessen
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005

About the Simulations:



Recent times have seen a great deal of activity and progress in human origins research, from the advent of molecular methods in the 1960s, to the many important fossil Hominid discoveries of the last few years. Nevertheless, the debate over whether particular fossil species are direct human descendants or not, and whether the fossil record and molecular results support a recent African origin, or multiregional continuity continues to rage [1-3]. There is clearly a substantial need for fundamental work studying the methods employed in interpretation of these data. The primary aim of my research is to begin to address this need by means of direct computer modelling and simulation of the many underlying and interacting processes, and by so doing make a significant contribution to the approach of such studies.

The simulations presented in my book are essentially simulations of evolutionary change, and as such may be applied to an effectively unlimited number of possible contexts. As described above, I have chosen to focus on problems related to human and hominoid evolution, but, through the provided software, extensions to many other areas is straightforward - especially for the species/subspecies simulation. In fact, it is my hope that providing the software will lead to much further and diverse development of the simulations in collaboration with other researchers. In the interests of quality control there are some minor limitations on the downloadable software, but these limitations can be removed via a simple (fee-free) registration process that will also allow me to provide updates and maintain some degree of dialogue with users.

The main subject of my book is the development and application of two related, but distinct, simulations, each designed to model important aspects of evolution in general, and the origin and evolution of humans in particular, as well as provide substantial analysis and a wide variety of visualisations of the results. For more details, go to Species Simulation and Genealogy Simulation.

[1] H. Gee. Return to the planet of the apes. Nature, 412:131132, 2001.
[2] S.L. Smith and F.B. Harrold. A paradigm's worth of difference? Understanding the impasse over modern human origins. Yrbk Phys. Anthropol., 40:113138, 1997.
[3] B. Wood. Hominid revelations from Chad. Nature, 418:133135, 2002.