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The Improbable Primate: How Water Shaped Human Evolution

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  52 ratings  ·  14 reviews
In The Improbable Primate, Clive Finlayson takes an ecological approach to our evolution, considering the origins of modern humans within the context of a drying climate and changing landscapes. Finlayson argues that environmental change, particularly availability of water, played a critical role in shaping the direction of human evolution, contributing to our spread and s ...more
Hardcover, 202 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2014)
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Clare O'Beara
This author has spent years studying the Neanderthals, especially the remnant population of Gibraltar, their last home. He's including Neanderthals, whose DNA has been found among modern humans, and Denisovans, the recently found Siberian group with a DNA which has also merged with humans, as humans. The term Cro-Magnon is not used anywhere; maybe it has fallen out of favour. The author uses terms Middle Earth and Hobbit frequently; the term Homo floresiensis is only used in a credit title in th ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
This is an excellent and up-to-date look at human origins through the lens of ecological and environmental science. Finlayson makes a compelling case for the evolution and adaptation of human species being driven by changes in habitat and environmental conditions in Africa and, like most species, our strong dependence on reliable water supplies. This short book is a quick read, but quite thought-provoking. Good bibliography with references to several very new paleo-anthropological journal articl ...more
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Finalyson writes in clear fashion and contributes some interesting arguments overall in this book, regarding his triptych "few trees + open spaces + water sources" favourable hominin landscape scenario. However he follows the single-species views as any good student from Ersnt Mayer would, which forces him into an extreme-lumper (e.g. for him, H. sapiens + neanderthalensis + denisovans + heidelbergensis + antecessor + ergaster + erectus represent a singles species... H. sapiens), so he believes ...more
Linda Franklin
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
FIRST OF ALL I AM LINDA CAMPBELL FRANKLIN and it;s annoying that goodreads keeps using my name wrong. •
I wanted to like it more than I did. Many many years ago I read a book about the origin of homo sapiens...speculating that we came out of the ocean and flippers became legs...etc. And the human body has a surprisingly high water content...varying (on the internet info sites, including Wikipedia) from about 50-60% for males and 45-55% for females. So I was ready for this book, thinking it would
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Before 2.5 M.Y.A our earliest ancestors took the initiative to move to rocky lands were there are varieties of stones and rocks and they started to get familiar with and involve them in their daily lives such as,  stone tools and shelters. Surprisingly, this happened during the time of the drought time, which took a place in Africa. Water resources started to become more rare and separated from each other with distance. Earliest Homo had to leave the trees and find a place with water resources t ...more
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The favoured human habitat, over the past 2 million years of evolution, combined trees, open spaces, and - most importantly - water. This story traces the interrelationship between climate change and our ancestors, with water as the main driver (water optimization hypothesis). The story seems reasonably well researched, but left me feeling that it was somewhat superficial and one-sided, boring at times. Too quick in dismissing the multiple human species theory and embracing a neat, single human ...more
Joe Dang
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good theory about how the search for water dictated the spread of humans across the earth. This author lumps all human like creatures (modern humans, neanderthals, homo erectus, etc) over the past half million years into the same homo sapien species. This viewpoint is not universall7 but this author provides good reasoning to support his views. He makes good arguments and theories about how DNA evidence could illustrate the spread of humans across the globe. A good read overall.
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Más flojo que el anterior.
Nos vende su movida y su idea, pero se deja leer.
Nick Gotch
Mar 11, 2015 rated it liked it
The Improbable Primate is about 40% the story of human evolution and the information we've gathered about it and 60% building the case for the author's premise that it was water above all else that fueled our species' evolution. While I would have preferred more in the way of background regarding human ancestry, the read seems appropriate if you're coming from a slightly greater background in the subject area itself.

It was a decent read and I gained some valuable tidbits of information that make
Steve Wiggins
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's hard to keep up with evolution. Or, I should say, our understanding of human evolution keeps changing. Clive Finlayson offers intriguing new interpretations that make sense of the most recent discoveries in human ancestry. His vision of a world where only one species of human exists at a time is radically different than what I learned about in school. Also the very image of widespread Neanderthal cultures living, perhaps peaceably next to our other ancestors (what used to be called Cro-Magn ...more
Finlayson summarizes the work of geographers, ethnographers and others as he describes how the requirement for water shaped the development of the human animal over the millennia. An interesting read until the last two chapters where he becomes very subjective. My opinion...early hominids were not more conservation minded than most modern humans, there were simply fewer of them. The human animal has succeeded in establishing itself as the dominant species, perhaps this success contains the seeds ...more
Trilok Reddy
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
If you seen a documentary on the evolution of the human species, then there is not much to read from this book other than the author telling that he has been to places where it all started with archaeological and palaenthological importance
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Super book with anew hypothesis on the role water played in human evolution. Fun to read and the arguments are easy to follow. I only wish it was more detailed.
Peter Caron
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent revision of the pre-history of humans and neanderthals. Well written, full of details and fascinating for anyone interested in how we evolved as a species.
Stephen John Miller
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