Contextualizing the Chimpanzee Niche: How savanna mosaic chimpanzee ecology can offer to insights into human evolution & beyond

Erin Wessling (Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University)

Some of the greatest human adaptations are traits linked with the expansion from forested habitats to more open, savanna-mosaic habitats. Although by no means perfect corollaries, savanna-mosaic habitats inhabited by chimpanzees presumably impose much of the same constraints faced by early hominins during their expansion, most notably hot temperatures and food resource constraints. However, although chimpanzees range across a great variety of habitats, little of what we know about them originates from chimpanzee populations living in savanna environments. As such, savanna habitats are typically regarded as marginal to the chimpanzee niche, outliers of behavior and socioecology. In this talk, I will discuss how insights from chimpanzees living in more arid, hot environments allow us to better understand chimpanzee adaptability, what constitutes the chimpanzee niche, and how this information better allows us to understand the strengths and weaknesses of using chimpanzees a model for human evolution.

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The following seminars will be given at 4pm on Tuesdays (Weeks 1, 3-8) and at 2pm on Tuesday of Week 2 on this YouTube Channel. Convener: Dr S. Carvalho.

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