Have you ever wondered what life was like millions of years ago? This is something that many scientists and anthropologists dedicate their lives to studying. What we can learn from our early ancestors can help us better understand our physical evolution which in return helps us understand diseases and illnesses better. Researchers have recently looked at a fossil of human from 2 million years ago to study and reconstruct their hearing abilities. Their findings are quite interesting.
Fossils and Hearing LossAn international research team, led by Rolf Quam, assistant professor of anthropology at Binghamton University, started studying the 2 million year old hominin fossil. Hominin refers to the group that contains the modern day human and our ancestors – some of which are an extinct human species. This specific fossil was from the known fossil sites of Sterkfontein and Swartkrans, located in South Africa. During their research, they were aiming to understand how the hominin perceived senses, which including understanding their hearing abilities. This required the team to reconstruct the fossils internal ear anatomy. Once they had achieved this, they found that the humans of 2 million years ago had similar hearing abilities to chimpanzees. Their hearing patterns appeared to favor shorter sound waves, which given their location in the Savanna, makes sense. In an open space, there is less to block sound waves and less of a need for a sound to carry, therefore the humans of 2 million years ago had similar hearing to us, but not quite as we experience now. Quams team also looked at a fossil from about 430,000 years ago and found that humans  of this time had very similar hearing to the people of today. It is important to note this does not mean that the humans of many years ago had a verbal language, however they could hear each other or other sounds very similarly to how we currently hear sounds. Researchers hope to better understand the exact time period in which humans sensory processes developed into the sensory processes we have today. This research can help scientists and doctors better understand how hearing has developed and possibly how it may continue to develop.
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