Duquesne University

Humans as an evolutionary patchwork by Alan Walker

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Alan WalkerFebruary 12, 2009, 7:30-10:00 p.m. Union Ballroom
Darwin’s 200th Birthday
This lecture is presented with the support of Pearson Higher Education and McGraw-Hill Publishing

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Alan Walker is Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Biology at the Pennsylvania State University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and is a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of over 180 papers, 1 textbook, and two trade books, including The Wisdom of the Bones and The Ape in the Tree. Dr. Walker’s primary area of focus is primate and human evolution, specifically the extraction of behavioral data from the fossil record.

Abstract: As people grow up they develop the illusion that they are an entirely individual being. But we are really complete ecosystems with our own bacterial flora and fauna and parasites and much of our DNA, even, made of viral sequences. And we exist in bigger ecosystems that change all the time just as we do. Although we imagine ourselves to be perfectly integrated functional entities, we are made of parts that have been added together and adjusted through evolutionary compromise over enormous amounts of time. Some of our parts have ancient origins and others have been added much later. The fossil record and comparative anatomy and genomics allows us to tell which parts were added when, and in some cases why.

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