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Studying mammals: Food for thought

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Who were our ancestors? How are apes and humans related? And where does the extinct Homo erectus fit into the puzzle? In this free course, Studying mammals: Food for thought, we will examine culture, tool use and social structure in both apes and humans to gain an understanding of where we come from and why we behave as we do. This is the tenth course in the Studying mammals series.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • describe features of apes, and features that distinguish Homo from apes
  • explain an evolutionary tree for hominines that shows one interpretation of the evolution of Homo from ape-like ancestors, australopithecines
  • use what is known about social group structure in living species of ape to suggest social group structure in extinct species
  • interpret features of apes, australopithecines, and Homo species in terms of adaptations
  • understand the roots of those features that make Homo sapiens different from other mammal species.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 10 hours
  • Updated Wednesday 16th March 2016
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Natural History
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Studying mammals: Food for thought

Introduction

Unit image

In this course, we will explore the fascinating question of who our ancestors were. I'll be looking at living species of apes in order to pick up clues about social structure and lifestyle in our ancestors and gain some understanding about why we humans behave as we do. I'll discuss tool use and culture in both ape and human societies, and look at two ancient species known only from their fossils - an australopithecine and Homo erectus.

This is the tenth in a series of units about studying mammals. To get the most from these units, you will need access to a copy of The Life of Mammals (2002) by David Attenborough, BBC Books (ISBN 0563534230), and The Life of Mammals (2002) on DVD, which contains the associated series of ten BBC TV programmes. OpenLearn course S182_8 Studying mammals: life in the trees contains samples from the DVD set. You should begin each course by watching the relevant TV programme on the DVD and reading the corresponding chapter in The Life of Mammals. You will be asked to rewatch specific sequences from the programme as you work through the course.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 1 study in Environment & Development [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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