Blame it on Australopithecus!

People used to say (and still do!) “I blame the parents…”

Well, the reason why many of us are the way we are probably has a lot more to do with relatives that are just bit further back than our parents… about three-and-a-half million years further back to be more precise!

Australopithecus is (currently) regarded as the earliest hominid and the ancestor to modern man; they stood just over a metre tall and were apparently nomadic, wandering the land and living from hand to mouth as they travelled. In those days, just to survive was success and since they were probably devoid of most of the social restrictions and inhibitions that we have today, that survival would have been at the expense of those less well-equipped. So, gradually, the process of natural selection ensured that those who were most able to survive – the selfish ones, the strong ones, the sharp and the quick – would survive for longer, breed more, and produce an ever-increasing number of progeny that inherited those same characteristics.

Almost 3.5 million years and several evolutionary changes later, the first modern human, Homo Sapiens Sapiens (that second ‘Sapiens’ is usually omitted) appeared, about 150,000 years ago… a creature with all the savagery and self-survival instincts that had been handed on for almost TWO MILLION generations, but with a brain and thought processes that surpassed anything known. Clever enough, later on, to outwit the massively built, immensely strong, but slow-witted Neanderthals; ruthless enough to destroy the apparently gentle and artistic Cro-Magnons. In case you’re wondering, neither of those are our ancestors and both became extinct some 30,000 years ago.

All of us today have inherited those same genetics that led to the survival of our species… the intelligent ruthlessness, the selfishness, the desire to control, and it is only the thin membrane of civilisation that sits between our instinctive and social selves. What’s certain is that every one of us has a direct line going all the way back to those first hominids, so it’s a fair bet that what Australopithecus parent taught to Australopithecus child is still alive and kicking, albeit in a modified form.

So next time you catch yourself – or anybody else – behaving in a less-than-considerate manner… blame it on Australopithecus!

 

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