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Writing Assignment 2

Writing Assignment 2 - Rebekah Lochte ANT316 Take Home...

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Rebekah Lochte 11/5/11 ANT316 Take Home Essays #2 1) What is “niche construction” and how might it be relevant to understanding human cognitive evolution? Support your answer with specific examples of proposed instances of niche construction in other animals and in human evolution. Bateson wrote that animals, through different actions and behaviors, change their environments, which, in turn, causes their descendents to have to adapt to their new surroundings. These adaptations, then, allow for evolutionary change. An example of niche construction is the beaver dam. Beavers take branches and logs and put them in a river creating a dam and a swampy area for them to live. Their descendents then live there. Niche construction is an interesting mechanism for explaining how animals change their environment and why; however, how do we know if the environmental changes cause the animals to adapt, or if genetic changes cause the animals to want to change their environment? Earthworms live in aerated soil because of the extra oxygen. Did the earthworms learn to make their environment this way because their ancestors found out that it was a healthier environment for them to live in, or did they just happen to find a place that was more aerated? I tend to think that it is a mix of these two things. I think that beavers and earthworms originally happened upon their particular environments, and then their future generations learned how to adapt to these places and create them for themselves. If this is the case, then it would make sense to attribute great cognitive ability to these animals. They must be pretty intelligent to realize that their environment is
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