Essay 1 Questions

The following questions can be answered for the first essay assignment.

Pick carefully and keep the instructions in mind. The list will be updated and remember you can construct your own question!

List of topics

Ch. 1


Ch. 2

*Before the scientific revolution the predominant view was that species were fixed in discrete groups created thousands of years ago. Describe how three different thinkers contributed to our scientific knowledge which ultimately refuted this view.


*Describe Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and give an example discussed in class, the book, or online of natural selection in action.


*Describe the scientific contributions of two precursors (Lyell, Ray, Malthus, etc.) and explain how they influenced Darwin’s formulation of natural selection.

Ch. 3

*Describe the different gene concepts, the debate over how it’s defined, and explain their relation with mutations. Briefly comment on how the regulatory genes relate to evolutionary theory.


Ch. 4

*In what ways did Mendel’s research contribute to genetics and evolutionary theory?


*Describe Mendel’s principles of inheritance and relate them to concepts discussed in modern genetics like meiosis, chromosomes, genes, gametes, etc.


*Describe the processes of modern evolutionary theory and explain why natural selection is emphasized in physical anthropology.

Ch. 5

*Describe the relationship between microevolution and macroevolution and give examples of each from the field of physical anthropology. (Requires material covered in chapter 4).


*Identify mammalian homologies and explain why they aided their survival of the mass extinction event occurring 65 million years ago.

Ch. 6


*Ancestral traits are homologies showing common ancestry between taxonomic groups. Homologies used to separate taxonomic groups are called derived traits. First, briefly unpack this concept (covered in chapter 5), then describe the homologies establishing common ancestry between placental mammals and primates, and then describe the homologies physical anthropologists use to distinguish primates from placental mammals.


*Identify and describe the traits used to separate the primates in the Strepsirrhine suborder from the primates in the Haplorhine suborder.


Use the shared derived traits used to identify members of the primate order to support one of the three hypotheses primatologists have posited to explain the evolution of those traits.

Ch. 7

*Identify some factors which influence human social structure. Compare these factors to the various social strategies seen in primates.


*Describe “primate cultural behavior”. Explain whether it fits with the definition of culture in humans from chapter 1.