The Coevolution of Niche Construction and Niche Adaptation in the Hominin Lineage: Toward Understanding Culture

Author(s): Robert Benitez; John Murray

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis and Human Origins: Archaeological Perspectives" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

One of the most significant, yet understudied, subjects in paleoanthropology is the emergence of culture and its resulting transition from biological evolution to human-specific biocultural evolution. Scholarship on this topic has historically been lacking partly due to an absence of a coherent framework that incorporates biological (i.e., fossil) and cultural (i.e., archaeological) datasets. The extended evolutionary synthesis (EES)--with its emphasis on niche construction, developmental plasticity, and reciprocal causation--provides paleoanthropologists an opportunity for integrating the fossil and archaeological record. Here, we use EES as a preliminary interpretive structure for examining the origins of culture and biocultural evolution. Our approach is based on the conceptualization of biocultural evolution as dynamic feedback loops of niche construction and niche adaptation. We apply this concept to the Plio-Pleistocene record and demonstrate how different hominin niche construction behaviors (e.g., perturbation, relocation) create varying patterns of inheritance (e.g., cultural, ecological) and potentials for novel cultural and biological adaptations. The coevolution of hominin niche construction and niche adaptation also appears to intensify in its potency over evolutionary time, which may explain the adaptive success of our species. We close with a discussion of implications for our proposed research agenda.

Cite this Record

The Coevolution of Niche Construction and Niche Adaptation in the Hominin Lineage: Toward Understanding Culture. Robert Benitez, John Murray. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450870)


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Abstract Id(s): 26148