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How Children Invented HumanityThe Role of Development in Human Evolution$
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David F. Bjorklund

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190066864

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190066864.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 July 2021

Embryos and Ancestors

Embryos and Ancestors

(p.92) 4 Embryos and Ancestors
How Children Invented Humanity

David F. Bjorklund

Oxford University Press

Evolutionary developmental biology, or Evo Devo, examines how developmental mechanisms affect evolutionary change. Heterochrony refers to genetic-based differences in developmental timing. One important type of heterochrony for humans is neoteny, which refers to the retention of juvenile traits into later development. Humans are a neotenous species, as seen in infants’ features of “babyness,” which promote attention and caring from adults, extending the primate prenatal brain growth rate well past birth, and a reduction of reactive aggression relative to great apes, which facilitated increased cooperation among group members. Homo sapiens extended the time it takes to reach adulthood by inventing new two life stages—childhood and adolescence. The social and cognitive abilities of Homo sapiens’ youth may be well suited to the childhood and adolescent stages and to the attainment of skills necessary for developing into functional adults.

Keywords:   evolutionary developmental biology (or Evo Devo), regulatory genes, modularity, heterochrony, neoteny, reactive aggression, childhood, adolescence

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